Chihiro Kaneko had great success throwing his changeup past the Oakland Athletics’ hitters during his time on the mound on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, the damage had already been done.
Khris Davis drove in two runs, the Oakland bullpen mostly held down the Fighters from start to finish and the major league club beat its NPB counterpart 5-1 in an exhibition on Sunday night at Tokyo Dome.
The A’s victory came a few hours after the Seattle Mariners beat the Yomiuri Giants, making the MLB teams a perfect 2-for-2 against the Big Egg’s current and former tenants.
Kaneko struck out nine over four innings and seemed to have a great feel for his changeup, a pitch he’s known to be particularly effective with.
“I tend to throw a lot of breaking balls and I trust my changeup,” Kaneko said. “I was really able to throw it well tonight. This was my first time playing against MLB players and I was a little nervous to be honest and I gave up some walks. But toward the end, I was really able to dig in and pitch well.”
Kaneko allowed three hits and walked three during his outing.
“I think I did well,” he said. “I really wanted to hit my spots. I had a good fastball and my changeup had good movement. They didn’t know anything about me or how I pitch. I can’t really say a lot about the game, but I was able to be effective with my breaking balls.”
Kaneko, a former Pacific League MVP, joined the Fighters as a free agent during the offseason. Including Sunday’s game, the right-hander has made four appearances during the spring, allowing two runs in 11 innings.
“He was good,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “Unpredictable really. He threw a lot of breaking balls in fastball counts, threw a lot of fastballs in breaking counts and kept us off balance.”
He struck out Davis in the fifth and allowed a single against him in the seventh.
“He threw strikes and he had a split-finger that was pretty good,” Davis said.
Before the game, some of the Fighters wandered back into the dugout after their practice to catch a glimpse of Davis, who led the majors with 48 home runs last season, taking his cuts in the cage.
The Oakland star didn’t connect on any home runs during the game, but began the scoring with an RBI groundout in the first. He nearly went deep to right in the third, but settled for a run-scoring double.
Stephen Piscotty and Jurikson Profar also hit RBI singles in the third, as Oakland raced out to a 4-0 lead.
Sunday’s game was a “bullpen day” for the A’s, with Melvin sending out relievers one after the other, including Liam Hendricks, who got the start. Oakland used eight pitchers in all.
“We had it scripted out,” Melvin said. “We wanted all our bullpen guys to throw and then get two days off before opening day against the Mariners (on Wednesday). So, we knew who was going to pitch what inning.”
Oakland’s first four runs came at the expense of Fighters starter Kohei Arihara, who pitched four innings.
Profar singled in another run in the ninth and finished 2-for-5. Matt Chapman also had a nice night at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of walks. Davis was 2-for-4.
Daiki Asama had a pair of hits and drove in a run in the seventh for Nippon Ham, which had eight hits but only managed one run. Takuya Nakashima also had a pair of hits and stole three bases.
The two teams will meet again on Monday at Tokyo Dome.