Takahiro Norimoto called it “the best outing of my career” as he pitched five perfect innings and combined with three relief pitchers to no-hit the Major League Baseball All-Stars in a 4-0 victory for Japan on Saturday in Tokyo.
The Rakuten Eagles starter struck out six to earn the win while Hayato Sakamoto and Sho Nakata each hit a two-run home run off MLB starter Jeremy Guthrie of the Kansas City Royals to give the home team its third consecutive win to open the five-game exhibition series against the major leaguers.
Adding injury to insult was that MLB second baseman Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners had the small toe on his right foot broken when he was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Mariners officials said Cano will be sidelined three to four weeks but will not need surgery or a cast.
“The story tonight was in the hit column with a zero on it,” said MLB Manager John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox. “Norimoto was outstanding. He was very efficient. He has a powerful fastball and very good late action to go with his split, his slider and cutter.”
Yuki Nishi struck out four and walked one in the sixth and seventh innings for Japan, while Kazuhisa Makita struck out two in the eighth and Yuji Nishino struck out one when he retired the side in order in the ninth.
Norimoto said he had an advantage with his Rakuten teammate Motohiro Shima catching him.
“It’s too good to be true,” Norimoto said. “I wanted to see how my pitches would work against MLB hitters. The fact that my teammate Shima was catching made me feel at ease and I was able to perform as usual. The atmosphere at the park was really nice.”
Japan won the first two games, 2-0 and 8-4.