Baseball

Shota Imanaga, four Samurai Japan relievers toss four-hit shutout against Canada

Kyodo

Shota Imanaga struck out six over three scoreless innings and four relievers completed a four-hitter as Samurai Japan completed its two-game series against Canada with a 3-0 win.

The win at Okinawa Cellular Field earned a series split before the two teams kick off their Premier 12 group stages next week. Japan will open its Group B campaign in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on Tuesday, while Canada will begin play in Group C at Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome on Wednesday.

Imanaga, who struck out five of the last six batters he faced, allowed only a one-out single in the first inning.

Japan opened the scoring without a hit in the fourth inning. Canada starter Rob Zastryzny allowed two hits over three scoreless innings, but reliever Daniel Procopio issued back-to-back walks to open the fourth.

With Kensuke Kondo and Seiya Suzuki on base, two straight ground outs by Masataka Yoshida and Hideto Asamura plated the game’s first run.

Japan survived a scare in the bottom of the fourth with a double play after new lefty Yudai Ono surrendered a pair of one-out singles. But a small-ball attack made it 2-0 in the fifth. Nobuhiro Matsuda walked, was sacrificed to second and scored on Tetsuto Yamada’s ground single.

After two scoreless innings from Canada’s third pitcher, former Tokyo Yakult Swallow Chris Leroux, Japan scored against right-hander Dylan Rheault.

A leadoff walk by catcher Takuya Kai and a one-out single by shortstop Sosuke Genda set the table for Kondo in the eighth. And the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters hit machine singled in Japan’s third run.

The Premier 12, a 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament, is being staged for the second time. Japan finished third in the 2015 edition, following a shock loss in the semifinals to South Korea.

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