Baseball: Tigers rookie Murakami nearly perfect again

Hanshin Tigers rookie Shoki Murakami dominated for the second straight game, going the distance in his first career win Saturday, 2-0 over the Central League rival Chunichi Dragons.

The 24-year-old right-hander, who retired all 21 batters he faced in his previous start before being pulled for a pinch-hitter, struck out 10 while allowing two singles and no walks at Vantelin Dome Nagoya.

The Tigers' fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft, Murakami led Japan's Western League in winning percentage and ERA the past two seasons but only pitched in two games in 2021 for the big club, going 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA over 5-1/3 innings.

Murakami (1-0) singled to open the Tigers' sixth against Japan World Baseball Classic pitcher Hiroto Takahashi (1-2) and then hustled around the bases for all he was worth to score on a triple by Koji Chikamoto.

"That was the thing that made me happiest today," Murakami said.

"I thought I might get a shutout if I was able to keep runners off base. I'm glad I was able to attack batters aggressively."

Chikamoto came home to score and give Murakami a two-run lead, and that was all he would need as he repeatedly froze Dragons hitters by changing speeds and precisely locating his unpredictable arsenal of pitches.

Murakami retired the first 13 Dragons he faced before giving up just his first hit with one out in the fifth. He then set down the next eight before allowing Chunichi's second and final base runner on another single.

Elsewhere in the CL, Hiroki Tokoda (2-0) worked seven innings and Ryoma Nishikawa hit a two-run homer in the Hiroshima Carp's 3-0 win over the DeNA BayStars.

© Kyodo News