As winter primes itself for another howling mess on the east cost of America, warning us of the horrors to come with a light flaking and sleeting in the early hours of this week, baseball has been played: Real, uniformed baseball, with actual MLB players, taking on an elite squad of Japanese all-stars at four or five in the morning. If you haven’t been rising with or before the sun to watch these games, good on you for maintaining a sleep schedule that will allow you to fend off the inevitable winter madness that comes for us all.
But for the rest of us, it’s been warmly comforting to see baseball played in Phillies uniforms by Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana as part of the 2018 MLB Japan All-Star Series. The exhibition has been taking place since November 7, and early this morning EST, the MLB team finished up their tour, dropping five of six games to Samurai Japan.
You can find our recaps of MLB’s matchups with the Yomiuri Giants and the other four games against Samurai Japan here. The final two games took place Wednesday and Thursday morning, and it’s a shame they came to their end, because it seems like Rhys Hoskins was just getting started.
Following their 5-3 loss on Tuesday, MLB tried to jump on Samurai Japan starter Nao Higashihama early, scoring two runs in the top of the second Wednesday morning in game five. Those two runs came courtesy of Hoskins’ second blast of the series, after Juan Soto had led off with a single, something they will probably be doing for the next ten years, just on different teams.
Soto actually did it again a little later, singling in Ronald Acuna to add to the MLB lead. A home run from Japan’s Kazuma Okamoto got his team on the board, but MLB kept adding, with a fourth inning RBI double from Yadier Molina, who has been absolutely burning through Japan’s pitching, and Carlos Santana doinking a soft fly ball that turned into an RBI single and scored Amed Rosario in the sixth.
MLB was up 5-1 in the seventh when, as has been the case overseas the past few days, the bullpen withered against Japan’s bats. A single from catcher Takuya Kai ignited a four-run rally that tied the game at 5-5, after Boston’s Hector Velazquez had relieved starter Junior Guerrera of the Brewers. Velazquez took the blown save, allowing four hits and four runs, two of them earned, and also committed a throwing error that threw the defense into disarray. Kai came back and tagged MLB reliever Dan Otero in the ninth with an RBI double that bounced off Acuna in left field and careened over to Soto in center before winning Japan the game, 6-5.
On to the series finale, with at least MLB squad’s two Phillies players playing in their comfort zone: Mathematically eliminated from a series victory.
Game six was never really close. Japan broke out the bats in the second, roasting Brian Johnson of the Red Sox until he had to leave the game. Johnson lasted one full inning, never recording an out in the second, and giving up five hits and four earned runs to give Japan an early 4-0 lead. The big blow, following a lead off walk and a pair of singles, was the bases-clearing triple from shortstop Sosuke Genda, who was subsequently brought in on a sac fly. Brutal.
Santana stayed on the bench in this one, but Hoskins got the start at first base after primarily DH’ing throughout the series. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout as MLB tried to mount a few offensive strikes, getting their first two hitters aboard in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, but managing somehow not to score in all three cases. Smells like Phillies baseball.
Acuna broke through in the eighth with a solo shot, adding some numbers to his quiet series, as his team tried to borrow some of Japan’s late inning magic, but MLB failed to do anymore damage, and it was actually Acuna again who struck out to end the game the following inning.
The Americans will now pack up all of their L’s and come home, but obviously, that wasn’t the point of the trip. MLB got some of the game’s coolest young players to go abroad and share baseball with another country, alongside some of Japan’s own stars. Messages like this indicate they had the intended affect on their audience.
Would it have been nice if they’d brought a bullpen? Certainly. But even Kirby Yates needs a vacation. He just might need another one, now, too.