The kid came through with the perfect birthday present for skipper Bobby Valentine.
Eighteen-year-old Yuki Karakawa improved to 3-0 on the season Tuesday evening at Tokyo Dome, giving up just four hits over eight innings as the Chiba Lotte Marines pounded out an 8-2 victory over the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
The only hits given up by Karakawa were a solo home run and a double by Atsunori Inaba, a suspect RBI single off the bat of Terrmel Sledge and an eighth-inning single by Eiichi Koyano, and that was it. The rookie right-hander struck out nine and did not issue a walk.
Reliever Winston Abreu pitched a scoreless ninth for Lotte, allowing a double to Kensuke Tanaka.
"We saw a great young pitcher pitching today," said Valentine, who turned 58 Tuesday. "I get very excited each time (Karakawa) goes out there ... It was a great present, but every win is special. He throws so many pitches for strikes and he likes to get ahead of the hitters. His mechanics are flawless, he throws four pitches any time in the count for strikes and that usually spells success."
Daisuke Hayakawa hammered a fastball from Fighters starter Ryan Glynn into the seats in right to put the Marines up 1-0 in the second inning.
A couple of innings later, Glynn had some issues with his control, leading to a five-run fourth for Lotte. With two out and Toshiaki Imae on first after singling, Glynn walked the next two batters to load the bases. He then walked Shunichi Nemoto on four straight balls to allow one run to score before Kazuya Fukuura lined a two-run single to left to make it 4-0. Jose Ortiz followed up by crushing a two-run double to left-center field and that was the end of Glynn's night as Ham skipper Masataka Nashida brought lefty Ken Miyamoto in from the bullpen.
Miyamoto didn't fare much better, however. With two out and two on in the sixth, Ortiz hit a routine groundball to Fighters third baseman Hajime Miki that should have ended the inning. But Miki booted the ball to load 'em up again and Shoitsu Omatsu proceeded to rip a two-run double down the right-field line.
Inaba homered to right in the fifth, his sixth tater of the season, and he scored again in the seventh after doubling off Karakawa. He came home when Sledge hit a sharp groundball up the middle that seemed to handcuff normally sure-handed shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Lotte improved to 20-23 with the win while Nippon-Ham is now playing .500 ball at 21-21-1.
The three-game series is being played at Tokyo Dome, the former home of the Fighters before the club relocated to Sapporo for the 2004 season. Nippon-Ham still plays a handful of "home" games in Tokyo every year.
(IHT/Asahi: May 14,2008)