Yamamoto continues historic start to MLB career

Right-hander shuts out Cards over 7 innings for 2nd straight start

June 19th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Two starts into his MLB career, and already is making history.

The 23-year-old from Kailua, Hawaii, turned in his second consecutive outing of seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out seven in the Marlins’ 6-0 victory on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Yamamoto is the first pitcher since at least 1908 to begin his career with consecutive outings of seven or more innings pitched, no runs and three or fewer hits. Yamamoto's 14 consecutive scoreless innings are also a record for a Marlins starter to open his career. Josh Beckett held the previous record of 10 innings in 2001.

“I definitely didn't imagine this,” Yamamoto said. “It's one of those things a kid can only dream about. It just worked out perfectly in my favor. The defense really backed me up tonight. Hitters have backed me up the past two games. It's one of those things, it's easy to pitch when you have the lead, and it's easy to pitch when you trust everybody on the field.”

According to Elias, Yamamoto is the second pitcher since 1893 to begin his career with two scoreless starts against the same team. Larry McWilliams of the Braves in 1978 did it against the Mets.

“In a sense, we were like, 'We're not changing until they show they can deal with him,’" Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Until they make an adjustment, there is no reason to change.”

Not overpowering, Yamamoto mixed in all five of his pitches, going heavy with 33 four-seam fastballs while adding 34 sliders, and 20 curveballs, according to Statcast. His fastball averaged 91.5 mph, maxing out at 93.2 mph. But it was his offspeed stuff that kept St. Louis guessing.

"I feel like we tried to stay on the fastball but really just didn’t get any,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said. “We didn’t really adjust on his offspeed, and we look up and there goes all of our at-bats. We didn’t really string anything together.”

Yamamoto's slider ranged from 79.4 mph to 82 mph, and his curveball, 73.5 mph to 76.2 mph. He added eight changeups and four cutters.

"He had a couple different breaking balls working,” DeJong said. “He expanded the zone a little bit on us. But we didn’t really adjust to him, and we look up and he had a strong performance again."

As Yamamoto was keeping the Cardinals in check, the Marlins were also held down early by right-hander Jack Flaherty, who struck out eight over seven innings. But Starlin Castro’s home run to lead off the fifth inning snapped a stretch of 18 straight innings without a run for the Marlins. Then in the seventh inning, Brian Anderson belted a two-run shot.

“I saw the slider hanging, and I hit it out of the park,” Castro said. “It started it. We got one run, and after that, we scored five more.”

Yamamoto has seized his first big league opportunity, getting called up on June 12 to replace Jose Urena, who is on the 60-day injured list with a herniated disc. Acquired from the Brewers as part of the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season, Yamamoto threw 99 pitches, with 60 strikes.

Yamamoto and right-hander Elieser Hernandez, who gave up two runs (one earned) in six innings in Monday’s loss, have impressed since getting called up from the Minors. Hernandez is filling in for Caleb Smith, who is on the injured list with left hip inflammation.

“For our club, and our organization, it's good,” Mattingly said. “A lot of people have talked about our starting pitching, and the kids that have been here. But then a couple of guys go down and the next starting pitcher comes up and looks just as good as the other guys. It creates that competition that we talk about within the organization. We want to create a competitive environment, in a good way.”

The Cardinals tried to ambush Yamamoto in the first inning, with Matt Carpenter jumping on an 87.8 mph four-seam fastball and driving it 402 feet to center, according to Statcast. But JT Riddle made the catch on the warning track.

The Cardinals’ first hit came off the bat of Flaherty, a two-out double in the third. Yamamoto held the Cardinals hitless until Dexter Fowler’s two-out single in the seventh. But Yamamoto ended his inning and his night by striking out Yadier Molina swinging.

Throughout the start, Yamamoto remained composed and collected. But that’s not unexpected.

“I grew up a very, I guess, non-emotional guy,” Yamamoto said. “My girlfriend [gets on me] a lot. Show a little more emotion. At the same time, I've got to go out there. I can't let emotions get to me. I've got to stay focused, stay on the pitch and let it go.”