Despite the amount of ink spilled trying to determine whether Seibu Lions pitcher Yusei Kikuchi was actually guilty of the illegal two-stage pitching motion he was cited for on Thursday night, it's more important to note the way he handled the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Kikuchi held the Pacific League's second-place team to no runs and two hits while striking out seven in a shutout victory in which he both lived up to his billing as the team ace and bolstered his candidacy for the Sawamura Award.

At 12-5 with a 1.93 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 144⅔ innings, Kikuchi might be the favorite for the award at this point in most other seasons.