As you'll read, Masahiro Tanaka is one of the best in the game. Here's a quick look at his stuff from the 2013 World Baseball Classic against Cuba.
SENDAI, Japan — After striking out Jose Lopez swinging with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning of a still scoreless game, Masahiro Tanaka let out a mighty roar and thrust his fist in the air.
You don't win an eye-popping 30 games in a row — including one on the biggest stage in Japanese pro baseball — by being timid.
Tanaka was at his dominant best again on Sunday night, striking out 12 in a three-hitter as the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles edged the defending champion Yomiuri Giants 2-1 at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi to even the Japan Series at one game apiece.
Tanaka had turned heads before the series started when he opted to take the mound in Game 2 instead of the opener on Saturday, which the Giants won 2-0.
“When I didn't start the first game, there were a lot of things said and I just wanted to put it all to rest,” Tanaka said. “It's disappointing I gave up the one run.”
Tanaka, affectionately known as “Mah-kun,” continued the most dominant season by a pitcher in Japan pro baseball history. He went 24-0 in leading Rakuten to its first-ever Pacific League pennant in its nine-year history, then won one game in the PL Climax Series as the team advanced to its first Japan Series. Combined with four wins from the end of last season, he has now won 30 in a row.
“From the first inning, Tanaka showed more determination than he did during the pennant race,” Rakuten manager Shinichi Hoshino said.
Tanaka, who issued three walks and hit a batter, had to be at his best to outduel rookie Tomoyuki Sugano, who allowed six hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
His lone mistake came in the eighth inning when Takayuki Terauchi, with all of two home runs this season and four in his six-year career, clubbed his second of the postseason with one out in the eighth inning to make it 2-1.
The Eagles broke the deadlock when Ginji Akaminai, who had two of Rakuten's nine hits, singled in a run in the sixth inning, then added the insurance run in the seventh with the help of a close call. With two outs and runners on first and third, Kazuya Fujita hit a high chopper to second, then beat Terauchi's throw as he slid head-first into first base, allowing the runner to score from third.
The call brought Giants manager Tatsunori Hara out to argue, and replays showed that the throw might have barely beat Fujita to the bag.
On Monday, the 24-year-old Tanaka was named winner of the Sawamura Award for the second time as the top pitcher in Japan.
In addition to his unprecedented undefeated season, Tanaka led the Pacific League with 1.27 earned run average and was second with 183 strikeouts.