Orix Buffaloes’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25) takes the mound for Game 1, looking to bounce back from a poor performance in Game 1. The Hanshin Tigers are one win away from their first Japan Series title in 38 years.
The Orix announced Yamamoto as the starting pitcher for Game 6 of the Japan Series on Wednesday at Kyocera Dome in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. After losing Game 1, the Orix won back-to-back games in Game 2 and Game 3, but a walk-off loss in Game 4 and a six-run eighth inning in Game 5 put them in danger of losing the series at 2-3.굿모닝토토 도메인
Yamamoto is an elite ace with a career record of 70-29 with a 1.82 ERA and 922 strikeouts in 172 games (897 innings) in Nippon Professional Baseball. He is expected to be posted to the major leagues after the season, and a mega-contract worth over $200 million is already being talked about.
This season, Yamamoto continued his dominance. In 23 games (164 innings), he went 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA and 169 strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to win four major awards (wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage) in three consecutive years. On March 9, he threw a no-hitter against Chiba Lotte, allowing one run on nine hits and one walk while striking out eight.
However, his postseason struggles have continued. Yamamoto picked up the win against Chiba Lotte in Game 1 of the final stage of the Climax Series on March 18, but struggled with seven runs on 10 hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in seven innings, and took the loss against Hanshin in Game 1 of the Japan Series on March 28, allowing five runs on 10 hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 5⅔ innings.
Ahead of Game 6 of the Japan Series, Japanese media outlet Nikkan Sports published the predictions of sportswriter Daijiro Oishi. Emphasizing that Yamamoto, who will start Game 6, holds the key to this year’s Japan Series, Oishi said, “The key to watching Game 6 at Kyocera Dome is Yamamoto. If the best pitcher in Japan is at his best, Hanshin won’t be able to win as easily as they did in the last game. I want to see what Yamamoto can do.”
For Hanshin, Shoki Murakami will be the starting pitcher. The same age as Yamamoto, Murakami went 10-6 with a 1.75 ERA in 22 games (144⅓ innings) this season, leading the Central League in ERA. While he doesn’t have a fiery fastball like Yamamoto’s, he has a solid delivery and a variety of fastballs, including a cutter and a two-seam, to keep hitters off-balance. In the first game of the Japan Series, he faced Yamamoto in a no-decision, going seven innings, giving up two hits, walking one and striking out four.
“Their starter is also Murakami, who pitched well in the last game, so it’s all about how many runs we can limit,” Oishi said. “If Hanshin wins Game 6, they can win the championship, but if the Oryx win, the Oryx have the advantage in Game 7. Oryx will start Hiroya Miyagi, who pitched six shutout innings in Game 2, while Hanshin is expected to go with Koyo Aoyagi. Hanshin has no choice but to send Aoyagi out because Yuki Nishi was hit hard in Game 2. The Oryx have the upper hand when it comes to runs scored. That’s why Game 6 is so important.”