June 13, 2024

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto stars as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 11 innings

Yoshinobu Yamamoto stars as the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 11 innings

As the baseball world revolved around him on Friday, Yoshinobu Yamamoto barely seemed to care.

It wasn’t in the Dodgers clubhouse before the game, when Yamamoto sat alone in his locker, then crossed his legs on a black leather sofa, quietly reviewing scouting reports as reporters crowded the empty room.

Not that he took the field hours later at Yankee Stadium for the opener of the highly anticipated Dodgers-Yankees series this weekend, receiving a chorus of boos from a fan base hoping to see him in pinstripes.

And certainly no more than seven innings and seven scoreless hits in the Dodgers’ start Win 2-1with Yamamoto’s gem setting up Teoscar Hernandez for a decisive double in the eleventh game.

“His best outing as a Dodger,” manager Dave Roberts said.

What’s more, this was perhaps the first time Yamamoto looked like a big star.

“I enjoyed the atmosphere,” Yamamoto said through his translator. “That was a great stadium. I enjoyed the whole match.”

In the lead-up to this series in the Bronx — a showdown between not only two of MLB’s most historic franchises, but also between two No. 1 teams that could meet in the World Series — most of the attention has surrounded former Most Valuable Players and perennial players. -Stars in both formations.

Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers. New York’s Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Soto (although Soto missed Friday’s game with a forearm injury and is doubtful to play this weekend).

“I’m excited to see the stars emerge,” Roberts said before the game. “We have some of the best players on the planet playing here.”

Exactly where Yamamoto fit into the pantheon of celebrities was less clear.

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The 25-year-old Japanese star earned the largest contract for a pitcher outside of Ohtani in MLB history this offseason, signing with the Dodgers — despite significant interest from other big-market clubs, including the Yankees — in a 12-year, $325 million deal. dollar.

He came to the MLB as one of the most decorated pitchers in Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball history as well, winning that league’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award three times.

“The Yankees are a great team and I appreciate their interest in me during the negotiations,” Yamamoto said. “But when I play them, it’s just a normal game.”

Despite all that, Yamamoto entered Friday with a few standout moments in his rookie season.

His earned run average was 3.32, which is solid but outside the top 35 in the majors. He has yet to face a crime anywhere near New York’s.

“This will be a good test for him,” Roberts said before the match. “But I know for sure that the stage won’t be very big at this moment.”

Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitches against New York Yankees star Aaron Judge during the first inning on Friday at Yankee Stadium.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitches against New York Yankees star Aaron Judge during the first inning on Friday at Yankee Stadium.

(Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

This intuition was spot on.

Three hours before the first show, while the rest of his colleagues were emptying the club packed with more than two dozen journalists, Yamamoto remained where he was. Hat backwards. Headphones are on. He seems to be in his own world, unfazed by the spotlight cast on what many have described as the biggest series so far this season.

“He’s pitched in a lot of big games in his career,” Roberts said, referring to Yamamoto’s career in Japan and the World Baseball Classic with Japan last year. “This will be just another experience for him.”

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However, once he took the mound, Yamamoto didn’t throw like it was just another game.

From the jump, the smaller, 5-foot-11 right-hander found increased velocity on his fastball, throwing 29 pitches at 97 mph or harder (plus six more at 96.9). He has only surpassed that mark three times all season.

“I think the mechanics worked very well today,” Yamamoto said.

“Anytime you have more speed, it helps,” catcher Will Smith added.

Dodgers teammates Jason Heyward, Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Buggs celebrate.

Dodgers teammates (from left) Jason Heyward, Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Buggs celebrate after a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

(Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

Yamamoto’s secondary also looked sharper than usual, as he used a splitter and slider to complete four of his strikes.

“The things he did in Japan he showed today,” Hernandez said.

When asked later how Friday compared to the postseason atmosphere, Yamamoto smiled sheepishly.

“I didn’t think about October,” he said. “I’m just trying to execute my performances as usual.”

Did Roberts learn anything about the pitcher, who was tasked with anchoring the rotation alongside fellow extra Tyler Glasnow?

“No,” Roberts said. “I knew he wouldn’t escape from this moment.”

The Yankees — who entered the night with an eight-game winning streak and the best record in the majors — had stressed Yamamoto early. Judge doubled down on the first. Two runners reached in the second on an error by Kiké Hernandez and a single by Trent Gresham.

But after escaping both of those jams — on a pair of sweepstakes sliders on slams at the end of the inning — Yamamoto continued the rest of the way.

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He did not surrender to another blow. He has retired 15 of the last 17 batters he has faced. In the final two innings of his 106-pitch career, he worked around his only two walks as well, fanning Stanton with a soaring fastball to end the sixth inning before getting a double play from DJ LeMahieu with the final pitch.

As he exited the rubber for the final time, Yamamoto clenched his arms and let out a celebratory scream.

“I think there’s a little bit of that, it’s still Yankee Stadium,” Roberts said. The unconvincing mechanics alone have brought Yamamoto into overdrive. “I think this has something to do with the phyllo.”

The game remained scoreless long after Yamamoto left the mound.

The Yankees were stranded with the bases loaded in the eighth. Both teams failed to record an automatic base runner in the 10th inning. Neither team could get a runner on until Teoscar Hernandez found the gap in center field in the 11th, and Ohtani (who went 0-for-5) scored from second base and Freeman (0-for-2 with two walks) scored from first. across the board.

“It’s the old adage that good pitching trumps good hitting,” Roberts said. “You can run out as many good hitters as you can find.”

The Yankees had one run in the bottom of the 11th, when Judge lined out (two for three with two walks) on an RBI single from Johan Ramirez — a low-leverage reliever usually asked to save the game for the Dodgers’ bullpen. .

But the Yankees didn’t muster anything else.

By then, Yamamoto had kept them quiet for too long. In a series that revolves around star power, the Japanese marksman made sure his name was at the top of the list.