Series hero calls it quits

Chunichi Dragons’ right-hander Daisuke Yamai, a two-time Japan Series hero, including his eight perfect innings in a 1-0 win in the 2007 Series clincher, announced Thursday that he will end his pro career this year.

Nippon Professional Baseball’s oldest active pitcher at the age of 43, Yamai also threw a no-hitter during the 2013 season. He was an unheralded hero who decided to turn pro only after his corporate league club folded.

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A pitcher who threw overhand but frequently dropped down side-arm as an amateur, Yamai settled on a higher arm slot in 2004, and when manager Hiromitsu Ochiai reportedly couldn’t decide on a starter late in the season, had two of his pitchers play “janken” — rock, paper, scissors — to decide who would pitch.

Yamai impressed in the start and was a surprise starter in Game 4 of the 2004 Series–manager Ochiai told reporters that Sawmura Award winner Kenshin Kawakami would pitch after a typhoon postponed the game for one day.

Instead, Yamai pitched and earned the win with six scoreless innings as Chunichi evened the series 2-2 before Kawakami won the next day. The Seibu Lions won both games in Nagoya to clinch it. Yamai however, got another big chance three years later, when he outdueled Yu Darvish in Game 5.

Yamai left after throwing 86 pitches, ostensibly after popping a blister on his pitching hand, so closer Hitoki Iwaki could clinch Chunich’s first Japan Series championship in 53 years with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Yamai went 13-5 in 2013, when he led the Central League in wins and winning percentage. His career record is 62-70 with 20 saves, 32 holds and a 3.75 ERA.

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