The Japan All-Star Series officially kicked off earlier this morning, with the Major League Baseball All-Star team facing off against the national team Samurai Japan in game one of the best-of-six series at the Tokyo Dome. Our Milwaukee Brewers are represented in the international melee by Junior Guerra, who was called upon by MLB manager Don Mattingly to serve as the game one starter when the contest kicked off at 3:30 am central time, which was 6:30 pm local time in Tokyo.
Guerra led all pitchers on the MLB All-Star squad with 141.0 innings pitched in 2018, but he hadn’t started a game since September 2nd and was allowed to throw only 74 pitches during this tilt in Tokyo. He delivered a solid international #JuniorGuerraDay performance nonetheless, starting with a scoreless first inning that featured two swinging strikeouts. Our hero posted a 1-2-3 inning in the second before yielding an RBI double in the third. Guerra worked another scoreless frame with a punchout in the fourth, but ran into some trouble before his pitch count became an issue in the fifth inning.
Junior allowed a ground ball single to leadoff batter Takuya Kai, then induced a pop up for the first out. Tetsudo Yamada followed with a one-out single to left field to put runners on first and second, provoking Mattingly to come out of the dugout and take the ball from his erstwhile ace. Reliever Matt Andriese of the Diamondbacks entered the game and promptly issued a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Andriese then served up a bases-clearing, three-run double to Shogo Akiyama, which allowed Guerra’s two inherited runners to score. That bit of undeserved bad luck gave our hero a final line that reads like this:
4.1 IP | 4 H | 3 ER | 2 BB | 5 K
Despite Andriese’s struggles, the MLB All-Stars were in a good position to win this game. Amed Rosario opened the scoring with a solo home run in the third inning, Carlos Santana launched a three-run shot in the fifth, and Juan Soto blasted a two-run bomb in the sixth. The All-Stars took a 6-4 lead into the ninth inning and Padres reliever Kirby Yates was tasked with closing out the ballgame.
He got the first out on a swinging strikeout, then allowed a one-out single before registering another punchout for out number two. But pinch-hitter Tsubasa Aizawa singled back up the middle, scoring the runner from second who had advanced on a stolen base to make it 6-5. That brought Yuki Yanagita to the plate, and he sent Yates’ second pitch of the at-bat into the seats for a two-run, walk-off homer that gave Samurai Japan a 7-6 victory.
By virtue of starting game one, Guerra may be in line to get the ball to begin one more matchup during the six-game series. It won’t be the next contest, though, which takes place tomorrow morning at 3:30 am CT, or 6:30 pm in Japan. You can get visual confirmation of Junior Guerra’s solid game one performance tonight when MLB Network airs the replay of game one at 7:00 pm CT.