Many pitchers -- even while working their usual role -- have had a tough time slowing down Japan. Josh Zeid, who is normally a bullpen arm for Team Israel, was able to do it as a starter.
Facing elimination in Pool E of the World Baseball Classic, Zeid stymied a potent Japanese offense in his first Classic start with four shutout innings at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday.
Israel was knocked out of the tournament with an 8-3 defeat, but Zeid's strong effort kept it deadlocked with one of the world's most feared teams for the first half of the contest.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Zeid scattered four hits and two walks while striking out three. He joined Australia's Tim Atherton as the only pitchers in WBC 2017 to hold Japan scoreless through the first four innings of a game.
"I think my history with Team Israel shows that I've wanted to be on the mound for as long as I can whenever I can to help the team win," said Zeid. "I wish I could've been more economical with my pitches and gone six or seven innings. But Japan is an unbelievable team."
The right-handed Zeid had served as Team Israel's closer for its first five games. But versus Japan, Israel manager Jerry Weinstein turned to Zeid in a crucial contest, and the 29-year-old proved he was up to the task.
The gutsy effort capped off an impressive run for Zeid in this year's tournament. The former Houston Astros reliever had already picked up two saves and a win for Team Israel entering Wednesday, and he extended his scoreless streak in WBC 2017 to 10 innings with his performance against Japan.
"I put a lot of time, effort, blood and sweat into preparing for this," said Zeid. "If this is the last game I'm going to play, I wanted to give it all I had. It was very emotional."
Originally drafted out of Tulane in the 10th round by the Phillies in 2009, Zeid has spent the vast majority of his professional career in the Minor Leagues, posting a 37-25 record and 4.24 ERA over 547 2/3 innings in 258 games (58 starts). In July 2011, he was part of the package of prospects that Philadelphia sent to Houston for Hunter Pence.
Zeid reached the big leagues with the Astros in 2013, posting a 5.21 ERA in 48 relief appearances over two seasons in Houston. He hasn't returned to the Majors since, bouncing around from the Tigers to the Angels to the independent Atlantic League to the Mets. He elected free agency in November.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.