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John E. Gibson

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Yamai unfazed by near misses

by John E. Gibson (Aug 25, 2010)

Chunichi Dragons right-hander Daisuke Yamai last week couldn't help but recall the 2007 Japan Series, when he got the hook three outs away from history.

The 32-year-old was perfect through eight innings but had a blister pop on him and wasn't allowed to pitch the ninth in the 1-0 Game 5 clincher at Nagoya Dome against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Dragons got the victory with closer Hitoki Iwase working a perfect ninth, but Yamai failed to have his named etched in Series lore.

Yamai was on the verge of claiming a sliver of redemption for the perfecto that wasn't when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth on Aug. 18 at home against the Yomiuri Giants.

The ninth-year hurler's bid to toss the first no-no in Japan since teammate Masahiro Yamamoto held Hanshin hitless at home on Sept. 16, 2006, went out the window with a leadoff homer by Hayato Sakamoto.

"To be honest, around the seventh or eighth inning, I was thinking, 'I want to throw a no-hitter,'" Yamai said Wednesday before the first of a three-game set between the Dragons and Giants at Tokyo Dome.

"Basically I wanted to pitch carefully and see what happened, but the result was that I gave up a home run.

"This time, though, the situation was totally different--a regular-season game vs the Japan Series--but I didn't have any particular memories about [the Series]."

Sakamoto's blast was the only hit in a 3-1 Dragons victory but Yamai said he wasn't at the top of his game that night. Still, he managed to shut down the powerful Giants' lineup, walking two and hitting one along the way.

"I didn't really have the sense my control was off--I had walks and a hit batter--but I made a number of mistakes in that game," Yamai said. "But the one kind of mistake I couldn't afford to make was that inside pitch to Sakamoto, who eats up inside pitches, and he got it."

Head coach Shigekazu Mori jokingly said Sakamoto's homer made it easy on the coaching staff and skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai, who were trying to manage a close game.

"Put the no-hitter aside, we have a good bullpen, so we could have taken him out at any time [late in the game]," Mori said. "But can you pull a guy who's throwing a no-hitter?

"If we had done that, I'd have been asked about it like I always get asked about the perfect game. That was a special case---he had a blister and it was the Japan Series. But during the regular season, you certainly want to allow your pitcher to throw a no-hitter."

Mori said the bullpen was ready and the focus was on whether to take Yamai out after he allowed a hit.

"It was good thing the hit he gave up was a home run," Mori said tongue-in-cheek. "If it had just been a hit and we took him out, it would have been tough. But it was a home run and that made it easy for us--and for him--to take him out."

Yamai (5-4) will match his career-best, single-season win total with his next victory, but he won't grind on his missed opportunity for a no-no.

"Every pitcher wants to throw one sometime, but the most important thing is to go out and do my job as a starter and and throw seven to eight quality innings," Yamai said.

"If I have the chance again, I'll go for it."


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