On Saturday, a Central League rookie who entered the season with an 18.88 major league ERA stole the spotlight from a matchup of two of the Pacific League’s best pitchers, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Kona Takahashi. Shoki Murakami, a fifth-round draft pick in 2020, allowed a leadoff double against the first batter he faced this season on Opening Day, but retired the next 24, before being pulled after seven perfect innings against the Giants on April 12.
Tigers 2, Dragons 0: At Nagoya Dome, Tigers rookie Shoki Murakami, who led the Western League in winning percentage and ERA the last two seasons and strikeouts in 2021, allowed two hits and no walks while striking out 10 in a stunning pitching display for his first big league win.
Freezing one hitter after another with a precise onslaught of well-located fastballs, cutters, two-seamers, splitters and an occasional big curve, Dragons hitters rarely got the barrel on the ball. Takaya Ishikawa managed to mash a ball to the warning track and force a good catch out of center fielder Koji Chikamoto to open the fifth, for the 37th and final out of Murakami’s streak.
Rookie Hiroki Fukunaga followed by smashing a single up the middle, but it didn’t seem to phase Murakami, who got two quick outs and singled to open the fifth. If he didn’t run hard enough to get a double on his ball hit down the line, he ran as if his life depended on it to score when Chikamoto followed with a triple.
A Takumu Nakano sac fly followed, and Murakami, who didn’t get pulled for a pinch-hitter this time in the eighth inning, allowed a leadoff single to Fukunaga before retiring the last six batters he faced.
Lions 4, Buffaloes 2: At Osaka Dome, Orix drew first blood in the fourth, when Yutaro Sugimoto plated Keita Nakagawa with his sixth home run. Seibu got a run in the fifth after Ryosuke Kodama’s leadoff single and an Aito Takeda double, and threatened to take the lead, but Yamamoto struck out Shuta Tonosaki and Takeya Nakamura to keep it a one-run game.
The Lions tied it in the eighth when three straight singles by Tonosaki, Nakamura and David MacKinnon chased Yamamoto, and Yuki Udagawa failed to put out the fire with Kodama singling in the go-ahead run.
Takahashi (3-0) allowed a leadoff single in the fifth but then retired the last 15 batters to wrap up the win on 125 pitches. He allowed five hits but no walks while striking out eight. Yamamoto (1-2) who lost last week to Roki Sasaki, gave up 11 hits while striking out eight and walking none.
Carp 3, BayStars 0: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Ryoma Nishikawa capped a three-run fourth inning with a two-run home run, his second, and Hiroki Tokoda (2-0) struck out five over seven innings without issuing a walk. DeNA loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Ryuya Matsumoto, but the 23-year-old right-hander got out of jail free, and Ryoji Kuribayashi recorded his seventh save.
Marines 6, Hawks 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, a scoreless pitchers’ duel went down the drain in the fifth inning, when Lotte loaded the bases against Koya Fujii (2-1) on an infield single and two no-out walks. Taiga Hirasawa singled in one run, and Fuji issued a two-out bases-loaded walk to the last man he faced, rookie Atsuki Tomosugi. A fumbled grounder at third made it 3-0 Lotte.
Former Marines closer Yuji Nishino (3-0) continued to get better results with each successive start. After allowing four runs in five innings in his April 4 debut against Nippon Ham, he allowed three runs over six against Seibu on April 12. Against SoftBank he went seven scoreless on two hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out six.
Tomosugi singled in two runs, and Hisanori Yasuda doubled in another in a three-run seventh inning to put this win on ice.
Fighters 5, Eagles 3: At Miyagi Stadium, Nippon Ham’s infield turned three double plays behind Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-1), allowing him to keep the Eagles scoreless through six innings despite allowing nine runners to reach on four walks, four hits and an error.
Yuki James Nomura broke up the scoreless game with a one-out two-run sixth-inning double off the Eagles’ top signing in last year’s draft, Kosei Shoji (0-1) in his major league debut. Ariel Martinez chased the rookie with an RBI single that made it 3-0.
Giants 4, Swallows 2: At Jingu Stadium, Foster Griffin (3-1) allowed a run over six innings, and Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro broke a 1-1 fourth-inning tie with a two-run double. Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-2) who allowed two runs, one earned, over his first three starts, allowed three runs over five innings, while the Giants overcame more hair-raising defensive moments late in the game.