Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Team Japan delivers a pitch against Team Mexico during the fifth inning during the World Baseball Classic Semifinals at loanDepot park on March 20, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Orix Buffaloes’ starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw his second career no-hitter and the 100th no-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball history on Saturday as the Buffaloes beat their league rival, the second-place Chiba Lotte Marines 4-0 in the second game of their three game road series.
Yamamoto, who is expected to be posted to sign with an Major League Baseball club in the upcoming offseason, threw nine innings, allowing one walk, one hit batter, and striking out eight with 102 pitches facing 29 batters. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was among those in attendance and sitting behind home plate at Zozo Marine Stadium, according to Yakyu Cosmopolitan.
Yamamoto’s fastball velocity averaged 96 mph during Saturday night’s game. The Japanese star is also in contention for the NPB Pitching Triple Crown for the third straight season, and he is leading the league with a 1.26 ERA, 14 wins, and 145 strikeouts.
Yamamoto is the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to throw a no-hitter in back-to-back seasons. The last two pitchers to throw no-hitters in back-to-back seasons in Japan were Eiji Sawamura in 1936 and 1937 and Tadashi Kameda 1940 and 1941 in the Japanese Professional Baseball League, prior to the start of NPB in 1950. Yamamoto is the 10th pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball to throw multiple no-hitters during their career.
During his start, Yamamoto extended his streak without allowing an earned run in 42 consecutive innings.
“I was nervous right up until the last batter, so now I’m relieved. From the time I stepped on the mound in the ninth inning, there was a lot of cheering, so it felt good pitching,” Yamamoto stated to the Kyodo News Japanese-English website during the postgame on Saturday.
According to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, “If Yamamoto is indeed posted for MLB teams, he’ll be subject to the NPB-MLB posting system, which grants all 30 teams equal rights to negotiate with the player but subjects the signing team to what, in the case of Yamamoto, could be a particularly steep posting fee. The MLB club that eventually signs Yamamoto would need to pay the Buffaloes a fee that is equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25 million, plus 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any dollars committed thereafter.”
In the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Yamamoto helped Japan win their third WBC title, beating the United States in the championship game 3-2 at loanDepot Park. Yamamoto had one start and one relief appearance, posting a 2.45 ERA, throwing 7.1 innings and allowing four hits, two earned runs, walking two batters, and 12 strikeouts.
Yamamoto is 25 years old and has played six seasons for the Orix Buffaloes, winning the Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award in 2021 and 2022, the Eiji Sawamura Award and pitching Triple Crown in the same seasons, two Pacific League Golden Glove Awards, and is a five-time NPB All-Star.
During the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Yamamoto helped Japan win their first gold medal. Yamamoto started in two games with both starts resulting in two no decisions, recording a 1.59 ERA, throwing 11.1 innings allowing seven hits, walking two batters, and striking out 18 en route to the gold.
Yamamoto was also selected to the Tokyo 2020 All-Olympic Baseball Team during the Summer Games.
Last season, Yamamoto went 15-5 starting in 26 games, recording a 1.69 ERA with two shutouts and throwing 193 innings, allowing 137 hits, six home runs, walking 42 batters, and striking out 205, helping Orix win the 2023 Japan Series over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in six games.
This season, Yamamoto is 14-5 starting in 20 games with two complete games throwing 143 innings facing 554 batters posting a 1.26 ERA allowing 102 hits, two home runs, 24 walks, and 145 strikeouts.
With a month left of the Nippon Professional Baseball season, Yamamoto will have more opportunities to impress Major League scouts with his pitching.
The Orix Buffaloes will play the final game of their three game series on the road against the Chiba Lotte Marines on Sunday at 4 a.m. EDT. Roki Sasaki, who will be eligible to be posted a few seasons from now, is the starting pitcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines after being sidelined following an injury to his left oblique muscle back on July 25.