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Joe Kelly, RISP, and rain spoil Yoshinobu Yamamoto's Dodger Stadium debut

Yoshinobu Yamamoto had an MLB debut to forget in Seoul, South Korea last week.

The three-time Eiji Sawamura Award winner and reigning Nippon Professional Baseball League MVP allowed five runs in just one inning in his first taste of the big leagues against the San Diego Padres on March 21st.

He bounced back in his Dodger Stadium debut on Saturday night, throwing five scoreless innings with two hits and five strikeouts in a rain-interrupted start.

“Compared to the last start, I think I had my stuff back,” said Yamamoto through a translator. “I have to keep doing it. I’m looking forward to my next start.”

The 25-year-old pitcher, who signed a 12-year, $325 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason, had allowed just one hit through four scoreless innings before a 35-minute rain delay brought his start to a screeching halt.

Yamamoto returned to pitch a scoreless fifth and even was in line for the victory when the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but Joe Kelly’s nightmare return to Dodger Stadium gave the Japanese superstar a no-decision in the team’s 6-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings.

Yamamoto struck out the side to start the game, showing flashes of why he’s considered one the best pitching prospect to ever come out of Japan in the process.

“It was a great vibe. The crowd was great,” said Yamoto of pitching at Dodger Stadium for the first time. “I think I was more calm today [compared to his last start in South Korea].”

After stranding the bases loaded with no outs against former teammate Lance Lynn, the Dodgers finally gave Yamamoto a lead on consecutive singles by Freddie Freeman and Will Smith in the bottom of the fifth.

But things went off the rails when Joe Kelly entered the game in relief in the top of the 7th inning. Kelly, who was making his first appearance at Dodger Stadium for the 2024 season (albeit with a new number), walked the first batter he faced, hit the second, recorded a balk, and allowed a three-run double. When the dust settled, Kelly had allowed five runs while only recording two outs.

Thanks to Kelly the Dodgers were down three with nine outs remaining. Plenty of time for one of the best offenses in baseball to come from behind.

Smith scratched another run across in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out single that scored Betts, and the Dodgers’ new shortstop hit his fourth home run of the season, and fourth in as many games, in the bottom of the ninth to cut the deficit to 5-4.

After three straight two-out singles, the Dodgers tied the game up at 5-5, sending it into extra innings.

“It’s awesome to know we’re fighting each and every game and that we put ourselves in position to win,” said Betts. “We didn’t come through today, but it’s really encouraging to know we’re not going to stop.”

However, as good as the Dodgers have been during the regular season the last several years, extra innings has been their Achille’s heel. Los Angeles is 23-29 in extra-inning games since the “ghost runner” on second base rule was implemented during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The rule continued on a temporary basis for the next two seasons before becoming a permanent part of the game ahead of the 2023 campaign.

Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the 10th, the first two hitters struck out, failing to advance the runner. But the Dodgers loaded the bases for reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani in his first big moment since signing a 10-year, $700 million dollar contract in the offseason.

Ohtani joined the Dodgers for clutch moments like this, and the possibility of finally playing in the postseason. However, in his first opportunity to play the role of hero, he popped out meekly to end the game.

The Dodgers left 13 men on base in the loss and were 7-for-19 with runners in scoring position (RISP).


The finale of the four-game opening series at Dodger Stadium concludes on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball at 4:10PM PT. Gavin Stone will face off for the Dodgers against Steven Matz for the Cardinals.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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