Eagles’ Matsui becomes youngest to reach 200 saves

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rakuten’s Yuki Matsui fires a pitch in the ninth inning against Seibu on Wednesday night in Sendai.

SENDAI — By getting out of a jam of his own making, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles closer Yuki Matsui became the youngest player in Japan pro baseball history to reach 200 career saves on Wednesday night.

Matsui closed out the Eagles’ 1-0 victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions at Rakuten Mobile Park Miyagi for the southpaw’s third save this season and 200th of his 10-year career.

“I struggled to control myself and my pitches,” Matsui said. “It was a relief to get the third out.”

At 27 years 5 months, he eclipsed the previous record of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars’ Yasuaki Yamasaki, who was 29 years 10 months when he reached the milestone.

Matsui took the mound in the ninth inning, only to allow a leadoff double and a walk. A sacrifice moved the runners over a base, but Matsui struck out Ryosei Sato swinging at a slider and got pinch-hitter Takeya Nakamura to fly out to center to end the game.

Matsui, a first-round draft pick in 2013 out of Toko Gakuen High School in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, relies mainly on a forkball, but has turned more to a fastball and slider this season.

“I mainly use three pitches. When those don’t work, I can’t get the strikeouts that I usually do,” said Matsui, who has 792 strikeouts in 605⅓ career innings.

As for breaking the record, Matsui said, “I’m not yet at an age and it’s not yet a number that I can look back on it. I’m only looking ahead and continuing to build my career.”