Yomiuri Giants hurler Toshiya Sugiuchi had a decision to make with two outs in the ninth inning of his no-hitter on Wednesday night at Tokyo Dome.
The 31-year-old offseason free agent pickup starter, unlike many pitchers, admitted he had become increasingly aware he had yet to allow a base runner in what ended as a 2-0 interleague victory over the Rakuten Eagles.
And he wasn't bashful about the fact he was "going for it" as he attempted to finish off a perfect game in the ninth inning before 43,321.
A 1-2 fastball to Toshiya Nakashima just missed to even the count, and Sugiuchi eventually went to 3-2 before walking him with two outs to spoil a shot at a perfect game. But the 2005 Pacific League MVP and Sawamura Award winner came back to get a called third strike on Ryo Hijirisawa and settle for his first no-hitter.
"I knew I hadn't given up a hit and I was aware I hadn't walked anyone, so there was a chance for me to do it, and I went all out to get it," Sugiuchi said about the later innings. "I wanted to get a strikeout there in the ninth, but when the count went to 3-2, I just didn't want to give up a hit. I said to myself, 'A walk is better than allowing a hit,' so I tried to paint the corner and missed."
Sugiuchi wasn't about to take a chance and serve up a pitch down the heart of the plate.
"I couldn't just carelessly fire the ball right down the middle, so I wanted to make it a tough pitch. The team won and I'm most happy about that," he said.
Sugiuchi (7-1), the Central League wins leader who moved to the Giants from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, tormented the Eagles with 14 strikeouts to become the 75th pitcher in Japan pro baseball to throw a no-no.
"I had really good movement on my fastball and slider today," said Sugiuchi, who also credited catcher Shinnosuke Abe for calling a good game.
He only allowed four outfield outs to become the eighth Yomiuri hurler to toss a no-no, and the first one to do it at Tokyo Dome. Right-hander Hiromi Makihara was the last Yomiuri pitcher to hold a team hitless, throwing a perfect game on May 18, 1994.
"It was a very intense nine innings," said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara. "But Sugiuchi had wonderful control, his movement and speed--everything about his pitching was great today."
Hara said the team was hoping for a perfect game but wasn't let down by being involved in a no-hitter.
"All the players were aware [he was pitching a perfect game], but no one talked about it," he said. "We all got a really good feel for just how challenging and difficult it is to get a perfect game."
The Eagles never squared a ball up all night and were swinging early in counts. Sugiuchi only threw 108 pitches.
The interleague victory was his 21st in interleague play, putting him second all-time. It was Sugiuchi's 53rd double-digit strikeout game, putting him past former Hokkaido Nippon Ham star Yu Darvish for fifth all-time.
Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda threw the 86th no-hitter on April 6, when he blanked the Yokohama DeNA BayStars 2-0 at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants improved their interleague-best record to 9-2.