Yoshinobu Yamamoto is sharp after his debut, but the Dodgers are losing

LOS ANGELES – Yoshinobu Yamamoto's debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming off the biggest contract ever for a rookie pitcher, lasted just one inning and saw him charged with five earned runs, nearly a quarter of his total over an entire inning. Previous season in Japan. That came after two tough outings in spring training, casting early doubt on Yamamoto's ability to make the jump to the world's most advanced baseball league in the United States.

“There's a lot of confidence and there's a lot of pride and fire,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Yamamoto, an athlete still learning. “And in appreciation of the contract and his part of the deal – I think he takes it personally. He took it personally. He was really determined to put on a good display for his home debut.”

Yamamoto, making his second start nine days after the nightmarish opener from South Korea, held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless through five mostly dominant innings on Saturday night and would have gone deeper into the game if not for a 35-minute rain delay. . After the fourth.

Dodgers shortstop Joe Kelly allowed five runs in the top of the seventh, and Shohei Ohtani walked out with his team trailing by one and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th, resulting in a 6-5 loss — but the cheering around Yamamoto's start won out. all of that.

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Speaking through an interpreter, Yamamoto said he felt like he “got my stuff back.” He added that he did not make many adjustments before entering the field, but he was simply “calm today.”

“You hate to admit it or say it, but I think it was more stressful than anything else,” Dodgers assistant coach Connor McGuinness said of the struggles surrounding his first start. “For him to be able to go through that and experience that, that snowballed on him, and to watch him come back the way he did — he's a special talent, man.”

Yamamoto struck out five batters, including the first three he faced, and produced eight of his nine swings and misses on the breakball and curveball. The latter is often used as a pitch to get back into counts, rather than a breakout that serves to eliminate hitters, but McGuinness was encouraged to see Yamamoto swing into the zone and miss with the slowest curveball of all. Pitch, thrown mostly in the upper 70s.

Yamamoto's four-seam fastball in the 90s, another elite ball that's difficult to catch from his low arm slot, was thrown for a strike 79% of the time Saturday, compared to 43% of the time in Korea. McGuinness added that the cutter, a pitch he uses mostly to rush opposing left-handed hitters, was given up mostly because the other three pitches were working so well.

“He did a great job of rebounding, didn't let the first one affect him,” said Dodgers shortstop-turned-shortstop Mookie Betts, who homered for the fourth time Saturday and is riding a 2.109 OPS through his first five games. “Until the day of that first start, you can't really know what happened. It's really nice to see someone who's been under a lot of pressure and so forth handle it all so well.”

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Yamamoto won three straight MVP titles with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, then signed a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Dodgers on December 21, agreeing to terms 12 days after Ohtani received a 10-year, $700 million deal. Yamamoto impressed his teammates with his stuff and leadership early in camp. But he gave up nine runs in 7⅔ innings in his final two Cactus League games, then was shelled by the San Diego Padres in his regular-season debut, allowing four hits, a walk, a hit by pitch and a wild pitch before recording the third out.

Yamamoto made a subtle adjustment heading into his second start, keeping his hands slightly higher as he reached a specific position in the clearance before breaking his right hand away from his glove to launch a pitch. That helped synchronize his birth, Roberts said. However, the Dodgers did not overwhelm him with recommendations prior to his debut at Dodger Stadium. In the early stages of their relationship, they let Yamamoto and his personal trainer, Osamu Yada, set the tone.

“It's definitely a new way for us to look at it, so we're excited to kind of learn from it,” McGinnis said. “We're really trying to learn his speech and playbook and how he does it. Just make sure he's comfortable out there. We'll teach him some things slowly as we go along. But it's been really impressive for him to bounce back the way he did. Don't worry about Delay, go give us the extra half. That was huge for the playing field. “I couldn't be prouder of what he did today.”

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