• Baseball

BayStars’ Imanaga throws franchise’s 1st no-hitter in 52 years

Jiji Press
BayStars left-hander Shota Imanaga fires a pitch during his no-hitter against the Fighters on Tuesday night in Sapporo.

SAPPORO — Yokohama DeNA BayStars left-hander Shota Imanaga threw the franchise’s first no-hitter in over a half-century, blanking the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 2-0 on Tuesday night at Sapporo Dome.

Imanaga allowed only one baserunner — on a second-inning walk to Kotaro Kiyomiya — to just miss out on the season’s second perfect game in Japan pro baseball. The 28-year-old, a first-round draft pick in 2015 out of Komazawa University, struck out nine in a 117-pitch outing to improve to 3-0.

Imanaga’s no-hitter was the third in history in an interleague game, and the first for the franchise since Hiroshi Kito tossed one for the Taiyo Whales on June 9, 1970, against the Yakult Swallows.

“It’s not like I was in particularly special form,” said Imanaga, after hurling Japan pro baseball’s third no-hitter this season, including the perfect game on April 10 by the Chiba Lotte Marines’ Roki Sasaki.

While Imanaga was holding the hometown Fighters in check, he was not assured of the win until Toshiro Miyazaki delivered a two-run double in the top of the ninth inning.

There have now been 96 no-hitters in Japan pro baseball history, with Imanaga the 85th pitcher to accomplish the feat.

A seven-year pro, he posted double-digit wins in 2017 and 2019, but underwent shoulder surgery in 2020, which kept him from playing on the Japanese team at the Tokyo Olympics the following year. Arm troubles this season kept him out of spring training camp, and he did not rejoin the roster until May.