Red Sox free agent target Yamamoto reaches third straight Japan Series

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The Boston Red Sox need pitching, and over the past year Japanese superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto has loomed as one of the most tantalizing arms set to hit the market. The 25-year-old right-hander, a longtime teammate of Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, has posted preposterous numbers throughout his career and is expected to become among the most highly coveted free agents of the coming offseason.

Assuming this is his last hurrah in his native country, Yamamoto is certainly finishing his run in Japan on a high note.

The Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto’s current and Yoshida’s former Nippon Professional Baseball club, are back in the Japan Series for the third straight year. The Buffaloes fell short in 2021 before winning their first championship since 1996 last fall, and now Orix is looking to repeat as NPB champion for the first time since winning three straight titles from 1975-77.

At the heart of Orix’s success has been Yamamoto, who is the two-time defending Pacific League MVP and Sawamura Award winner, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young. Yamamoto will likely win both for the third straight year after once again winning the Japanese Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (16), ERA (1.21) and strikeouts (169) over 164 innings. He also threw his second career no-hitter in September.

Yamamoto wasn’t particularly sharp in Game 1 of the Pacific League finals, allowing five runs on 10 hits and two walks over seven innings, but he also struck out nine and did enough to help Orix get the 8-5 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Orix went on to win the series 3-1 and will face the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Series. Yamamoto will presumably get the ball in Game 1, which is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28.


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