The Japan Series continued with game five this morning at the Nagoya Dome, with the MLB All-Stars facing a 3-1 deficit against Samurai Japan in the best-of-six series. Hoping to salvage at least a series tie, MLB manager Don Mattingly turned to his game one starter, Junior Guerra of the Milwaukee Brewers, to begin things in this must-win contest.
And for five outstanding innings, our hero delivered.
Junior worked around a walk in a scoreless first inning by recording two strikeouts and was staked to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Rhys Hoskins went deep for a two-run blast, his second homer of the series. Guerra gave one of those runs back when Kazuma Okamoto led off the bottom of the frame by blasting a solo shot of his own to center field, bringing the score to 2-1. That would be the only hit that Guerra would allow during the outing, however.
Junior issued two walks in the third inning but navigated through things without allowing a run by inducing a strikeout and a pop up to end the frame. Guerra threw clean, 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth and added three more punchouts to his line before his day ended at 79 pitches. His final #JuniorGuerraDay line reads like this:
5 IP | 1 H | 1 ER | 3 BB | 7 K
By the time Guerra was removed, the MLB All-Stars had stretched their lead to 5-1 on RBIs by Juan Soto, Yadier Molina, and Carlos Santana. Red Sox hurler Hector Velazquez relieved our hero on the mound, and he made quick of Samurai Japan with a 1-2-3 sixth inning. After that, however, things fell off the rails. Velazquez allowed three straight singles to start the seventh, the last of which plated a run to cut the lead to 5-2. After a mound visit, his own throwing error brought in another run to make it 5-3. He recorded the first out of the inning on a strikeout, but then Velazquez served up a two-run double to Hotaka Yamakawa to things up at five apiece. Velazquez was able to induce a fly out and a ground out to finally put the inning to bed.
It was Dan Otero of the Indians who trotted out to the mound for the MLB All-Stars in the eighth inning, and after recording the first two outs with relative ease, Seiji Uebayashi punched a line drive single to right field. That brought Takuya Kai to the plate, who hit a ball that deflected off center fielder Ronald Acuna, Jr.’s glove and went in the scorebook as a run-scoring double, allowing Samurai Japan to take a 6-5 lead that they would not vanquish.
By virtue of their loss today, the MLB All-Stars have officially been defeated in the best-of-six series against Japan’s national team. They’ll still play game six tomorrow morning, with first pitch set for 3:00 AM central, before the MLB All-Stars head back home for the offseason. Junior Guerra performed admirably during his two starts, finishing with four runs allowed across 9.1 innings for an ERA of 3.86 and a K/BB ratio of 12:5. He heads into the winter with some positive momentum as he faces arbitration eligibility for the first time.