The last time Japan hosted the traditional MLB-NPB series, MLB All-Star Chris Young was a newly-minted Padre fresh off of a breakout season, and Chone Figgins was just one year removed from a 3.9 bWAR performance. Together, with the aid of even more talented MLB players, they swept the NPB All-Star squad in five straight games.
Every other year since 1986, select players from MLB and NPB have competed in the Japan Series, a competition aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two leagues. In ten match-ups, the MLB All-Stars have bested their NPB rivals nine times. Perhaps to the chagrin of NPB players, they have made off with the MVP award ten of ten times, even when the All-Japan team bested the MLB team in 1990. (You can thank Ken Griffey, Jr. for that one.) Of the 75 games played between the two countries over the last 28 years, MLB representatives have won 48 to Japan's 20. The remainder of the games have been settled in a tie.
This time, things are a little different. Traditionally, players from NPB teams are selected to compete against MLB All-Stars; however, this year Japan's national team (Samurai Japan) will take the field in their stead. NPB commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki feels that the national team could use the practice in preparation for the upcoming 2017 World Baseball Classic. It's not a wholly unusual decision, given that the Japan Series has been cancelled three times in the last eight years for the WBC.
Of the 19 MLB teams participating in this year's tour, the World Series contending Kansas City Royals will be the best represented, with a total of four players on the roster, as well as the Houston Astros, also with four nominees. Robinson Cano and Hisashi Iwakuma have been chosen to represent the Mariners, making the M's one of only six teams to carry multiple players. Neither Cano nor Iwakuma have participated in the Japan Series* prior to this year.
"It feels good," Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "I was looking forward to it and now we're here."
*As was pointed out earlier, the Japan Series is typically used to designate the annual championship series between NPB teams, as well as the occasional competition between NPB and MLB All-Stars.
- Exhibition, MLB vs. Samurai Japan, Okinawa, 1 a.m. PST
- Tonight's game will be televised and re-aired on MLB Network and available to MLB TV subscribers online here.
- Lineups will be updated in this thread for every exhibition and game, so check back here on the dates given below.
- Exhibition game: MLB 8, Hanshin/Yomiuri 7. Robinson Cano went 2 for 3 with a pair of base hits against NPB southpaws Atsushi Nohmi and Suguru Iwazaki.
- Game 1: MLB 0, Samurai Japan 2. Robinson Cano went 1 for 4 with a single off of RHP Kenta Maeda.
- Game 2: MLB 4, Samurai Japan 8. Robinson Cano went 1 for 4 again with an RBI base hit off of right-hander Shoichi Inoh during MLB's eighth-inning rally. Iwakuma took the loss after allowing 10 hits, five earned runs, and striking out four of 21 batters in four innings.
- Game 3: MLB 0, Samurai Japan 4. Robinson Cano went 0 for 2 before fracturing his toe on a wayward pitch by RHP Yuki Nishi. He is expected to be sidelined with the injury for 3-4 weeks. Four right-handed pitchers for Samurai Japan combined for the first no-hitter in Japan Series history since 1990: Takahiro Norimoto, Yuki Nishi, Kazuhisa Makita, and Yuji Nishino.
- Game 4: MLB 6, Samurai Japan 1. MLB took their first game of the series with an RBI double and home run by Justin Morneau, a solo homer by Evan Longoria, and a productive out from Eduardo Nunez.
- Game 5: MLB 3, Samurai Japan 1. In the second inning, Jose Altuve put two runs on the board with a productive groundout and a passed ball by Samurai Japan backstop Motohiro Shima. Matt Shoemaker, Randy Choate, Tommy Hunter, Jose Veras, and Mark Melancon combined for four hits, a run, and five strikeouts in MLB's second and final win of the series.
Tonight's MLB All-Star lineup
- Alcides Escobar, SS
- Jose Altuve, 2B
- Justin Morneau, DH
- Evan Longoria, 3B
- Carlos Santana, 1B
- Lucas Duda, RF
- Chris Carter, LF
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Drew Butera, C
- Hector Santiago, LHP