By Carter Cromwell
Japanese Players in MLB – 2020 Wild Card Series
Then there were only two.
Two Japanese import players in the Major League Baseball playoffs, that is.
What was a group of nine during the regular season and six at the beginning of the playoffs now comprises just pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees and infielder Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Tampa Bay Rays after the remaining Wild Card series ended Friday.
Cincinnati outfielder Shogo Akiyama, and pitchers Shun Yamaguchi of Toronto, Kenta Maeda of Minnesota, and Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs are out after their teams failed to advance to the next round.
Most surprising, perhaps, is that Maeda and Darvish are no longer in the playoffs, as both the Twins and Cubs were favored to move on but instead fell in two straight games to the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, respectively.
Darvish, a solid candidate for the National Cy Young Award after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and .096 WHIP during the regular season, held the Marlins scoreless through 6.2 innings Friday. However, he took the loss after Miami got two runs and won 2-0. With two out in the seventh, he gave up a solo home run to Garrett Cooper and later a run-scoring single to Magneuris Sierra.
The Cubs’ offense didn’t help, getting just five hits. Chicago scored just one run in the two games and has scored only 10 in its last eight playoff contests.
Likewise, Maeda’s one playoff effort wasn’t enough to lift his team to a victory. He pitched five scoreless innings against the Astros on Tuesday and left with the game scoreless. But the Twins got just four hits, and Houston scored four runs off the Minnesota bullpen to win 4-1.
It was his first playoff start in four years. Maeda had not done well in three starts during the 2016 post-season and had pitched effectively out of the Dodgers bullpen in the last three playoff runs. But, despite his strong effort, Minnesota has now lost 18 playoff games in succession.
For solace, Maeda can look back on a successful regular season in his first year with Minnesota – a 6-1 record, 2.70 ERA, and microscopic 0.75 WHIP.
On the flip side, the Yankees’ Tanaka did not have a good outing Wednesday against Cleveland, allowing five hits, three walks, and six runs in four innings. However, his team rallied with two runs in the ninth inning to pull out a wild 10-9 victory and eliminate the Cleveland Indians.
Tanaka was 3-3 with a 3.56 earned-run average and 1.17 WHIP during the regular season.
Elsewhere . . .
- Akiyama was 0-5 at the plate, as Cincinnati was shut out twice by Atlanta
- Yamaguchi did not pitch in either of Toronto’s two losses to Tampa Bay.
- Tampa Bay’s Tsutsugo only played in the first game against the Blue Jays, going 0-2 as the designated hitter.
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