FUKUOKA – With his chances to pitch for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this season not looking good, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw seven innings on Saturday in a 1-0 no-hitter over the Hiroshima Carp.
Matsuzaka struck out six and walked two, while two more former big leaguers, Ryota Igarashi and Dennis Sarfate, completed NPB’s first preseason no-hitter since 1988.
Told before the game that he would not be in the starting rotation to start the season, the 36-year-old right-hander expressed satisfaction with his results.
“I’m glad I was able to do well in my last game of the preseason,” said Matsuzaka, who relied heavily on the breaking balls and moving fastballs he polished over the winter. “My only thought is to keep pitching and building for what comes next.”
The biggest trouble for Matsuzaka this spring has been his control. In his three previous outings, he issued 10 walks and hit two batters in 11-1/3 innings, while striking out seven. He entered Saturday’s game at Yafuoku Dome with a 4.76 preseason ERA.
Second-year Carp starter Akitaka Okada worked six scoreless innings, but designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne opened the seventh with a single and pinch runner Shuhei Fukuda scored on a pinch-hit single by Keizo Kawashima.
“We squared up some balls, but they also played solid defense,” Carp manager Koichi Ogata said. “Still, nobody wants to be no hit.”
Hiroshima had two chances for hits against Matsuzaka, but the Carp were foiled by some good glove work by third baseman Kenji Akashi and left fielder Akira Nakamura.
“This was only possible because the fielders caught all those balls for me,” Matsuzaka said.
Matsuzaka has pitched in only one Pacific League game since returning to Japan in 2015 from the big leagues on a three-year deal. Since a promising start in the spring of 2015, the former Seibu Lions and Boston Red Sox star has been beset by injuries.
“I told him you never know when the call is going to come so prepare yourself well,” manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
NPB’s last spring no-hitter was also thrown by a Hawks pitcher. On March 23, 1988, Nankai Hawks journeyman lefty Yoshiaki Nishikawa no-hit the Yakult Swallows. Nishikawa went 25-39 in his career, but had just eight wins left in him after his preseason gem.