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An ex-Mariner ends Tanaka’s 30-game winning streak

By Shannon Drayer

A remarkable streak has come to an end in Japan thanks to a former Mariner.

Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, starting Game 6 of the Japan Series, suffered his first loss of the year Saturday. The 25-year-old Tanaka – who if posted looks to become one of the most coveted MLB free agents this winter – gave up four runs in Rakuten’s 4-2 loss to the Yomiuri Giants. It was his first loss in 31 games.

Former Mariner Jose Lopez (5) singled, homered and drove in three runs to help the Yomiuri Giants win Game 6 of the Japan Series Saturday. (AP)

The loss was met with shock in Japan as this article from The Japan Times illustrates. Why would they expect a pitcher who had won 30 straight games to lose his final start of the year? What isn’t mentioned in the article is how he gave up the runs. Who finally got to Tanaka?

I am a fan of international baseball and as such I follow a number of international teams and leagues on Twitter. A series of tweets Saturday morning in Spanish from the Lara Cardenales caught my eye because the name Jose Lopez appeared in them. I thought perhaps he was returning from Japan and Lara was tweeting that he would play for them this winter. A quick trip to Google Translate pointed me in the direction of The Japan Times article.

Next stop was the Japan League website, and then a look at the box score from Game 6. Not a bad night for Lopez, who drove in three of the four runs against Tanaka with a single and a home run. It was the just the third time in 37 starts that Tanaka gave up more than two earned runs.

This may or may not have been the last time Tanaka pitches in Japan as there is a chance that he could pitch again. Rakuten did use him in relief earlier in the postseason and there is speculation they could do so again in the deciding Game 7. No doubt scouts in attendance will wince if this happens as he threw 160 (!) pitches in Game 6. Something to watch for.

So Japan gets a Game 7. My fingers are crossed for the Golden Eagles as they are from Sendai in the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. We traveled through Sendai on our way to put on a clinic for the kids in Ishinomaki when the Mariners opened their season in Tokyo in 2012. No doubt a Series win would bring great joy to the region.

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