Perfect Norimoto leads combined no-no vs. MLB
Four pitchers send Team Samurai to 4-0 victory and 3-0 Japan Series lead
The team of MLB All-Stars was no-hit by four Samurai Japan pitchers for its third straight loss in the Japan All-Star Series, a 4-0 defeat on Saturday at the Tokyo Dome. Though the five-game showcase has been decided, the big leaguers will try to finish strong, with two games and an exhibition remaining on the trip.
The MLB All-Stars have been outscored, 21-12, through four games -- three losses to Samurai Japan, the country's national team, and an 8-7 win in an exhibition against a team of players from the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.
A Game 3 starting lineup that featured six All-Stars -- the only exceptions being Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler -- mustered just four baserunners (three walks and a hit batter). Both the American League and National League batting champs, Jose Altuve and Justin Morneau, were retired in the ninth inning to complete the first no-hitter in the Japan All-Star Series since 1990, when Chuck Finley and Randy Johnson combined to accomplish the feat for the MLB squad.
Japan starter Takahiro Norimoto led the way on Saturday, tossing five perfect innings. Samurai Japan gave him the victory with a pair of two-run homers off Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.
Norimoto, 23, struck out six. Japanese manager Hiroki Kokubo chose to pull him from the game after five innings despite having 20 pitches remaining before reaching the 80-pitch limit for the series.
Duda drew a walk against reliever Yuki Nishi to begin the sixth inning, but he was stranded on first base. That walk was the only baserunner Nishi would allow. He struck out four in two innings.
Kazuhisa Makita and Yuji Nishino also made spotless appearances.
Kikuchi helps preserve no-no
Every no-hitter seems to have at least one standout defensive play, and Samurai Japan's came in the ninth inning when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi stole a potential hit from Carlos Santana.
Kikuchi, a 24-year-old infielder for the Hiroshima Carp, made a terrific snag of a sharply hit ball from Santana and easily threw out the Indians slugger to help preserve Nishino's perfect ninth inning and the combined no-no.
Japan puts pressure on early
For the third time in as many games, the MLB All-Stars fell behind early against Samurai Japan -- this time by way of a pair of long balls.
With just the second and third home runs the MLB team has allowed on this trip, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and left fielder Sho Nakata hit two-run shots off Guthrie.
Sakamoto went yard to left field in the second inning with Nakata on second base, then Nakata followed with one of his own in the third after third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda singled.
Cano pulled after hit by pitch
After striking out in his first at-bat and grounding out to second in his second at-bat, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was hit in the right foot by the second pitch he saw in his seventh-inning at-bat against Nishi.
Cano, who was just the second MLB baserunner at that point in the game, was replaced by Jose Altuve. The Astros second baseman was stranded as the big leaguers continued to trail, 4-0.
Cano, who is hitting .200 in the Japan All-Star Series, left the Tokyo Dome before the game's conclusion to get an X-ray on his right little toe.
Norimoto mowed down the MLB All-Stars lineup at the Tokyo Dome, striking out six in five perfect innings. The 23-year-old won the Japan Pacific League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and led the league in shutouts and complete games this past season.
Rays relief pitcher Jeff Beliveau was removed with one out in the eighth inning following a meeting on the mound with an MLB team trainer and pitching coach Mike Maddux.
Beliveau retired all four batters he faced, striking out three. After a brief conversation, Maddux motioned to the dugout that Beliveau was finished, and he was replaced by Franklin Morales. There was no update from the MLB club whether the change was injury related.
Few members of Major League Baseball's Japan All-Star Series team appreciate this trip more than Game 3 starting pitcher Guthrie. A fourth-generation Japanese-American, Guthrie met a group of his relatives for the first time this week, and he has talked openly of one day playing in Nippon Professional Baseball.
"Playing in front of the Japanese fans makes the baseball game be more enjoyable and more fun," Guthrie said. "They're very involved. They appreciate all of the plays, both for the home team as well as the visiting team, which is very appreciated. So it is a nice honor to play in front of great fans that love baseball."
Guthrie allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in his five innings.
With the Japan All-Star Series already decided, the MLB squad will play for pride in the remaining two games before wrapping up the trip with an exhibition game.
The big leaguers will next take the field against Samurai Japan at 4 a.m. ET on Sunday, when Chris Capuano will look to build on his strong performance in MLB's 8-7 exhibition win on Tuesday. Capuano, seeing his first game action since September in that start, threw four scoreless innings. He walked one, allowed one hit and struck out three.
The game will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.TV, then re-aired at 9 p.m. on MLB Network.
More from the Japan All-Star Series
• MLB tips caps to Japan pitchers
• Cano has X-ray on toe after HBP
• Beliveau exits with apparent injury
• MLB continues support of Japan's earthquake victims
• Respect trumps results for Iwakuma and Wada
• MLB squad visits US embassy in Tokyo
• Japan trip hits home with Royals' Guthrie
• MLB roster for Japan full of stars
• Japanese broadcasters call best moments
• Watch the full Japan All-Star Series on MLB.TV
VIDEO: Highlights, interviews and analysis
Japan All-Star Series schedule
• Exhibition: MLB 8, Hanshin-Yomiuri 7 | Box
• Game No. 1: Japan 2, MLB 0 | Box
• Game No. 2: Japan 8, MLB 4 | Box
• Game No. 3: Japan 4, MLB 0 | Box
• Sunday: Game No. 4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
• Monday: Travel day
• Tuesday, Nov. 18: Game No. 5 at Sapporo Dome, Sapporo (7 p.m. JT/5 a.m. ET)
• Wednesday, Nov. 19: Travel day
• Thursday, Nov. 20: Exhibition game vs. Samurai Japan, Okinawa Cellular Stadium, Okinawa (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
MLB Network will broadcast all seven games of the Japan All-Star Series, and MLB.TV subscribers in the U.S. and around the world can watch live and on-demand streams of every game as well.