Marlins’ Jordan Yamamoto explains first MLB start
Jordan Yamamoto knew how special his Major League debut played out last week. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals over seven innings at Marlins Park the first time he took the mound at the MLB level on Wednesday.
But Yamamoto had bigger plans brewing after that debut. The Marlins’ No. 17 prospect in the organization, a 6-0 right-handed pitcher from Hawaii obtained in the Christian Yelich trade 18 months ago, wanted to prove he could back up that performance with another strong start.
Did he ever.
Facing the same Cardinals team, this time on the road, Yamamoto made Marlins franchise history when he twirled another seven shutout innings — giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out seven in the process — to lead the Marlins to a 6-0 win at Busch Stadium on Tuesday.
Yamamoto’s 14 scoreless innings (and counting) to begin his Major League career well surpassed the Marlins franchise record by a starting pitcher to open his career. Josh Beckett previously held the record with 10 scoreless innings in 2001 to start his career.
Yamamoto, who is filling Jose Urena’s spot in the starting rotation with Urena on the 60-day Injured List for a herniated disc, will have a chance to extend the streak during his next start. That is scheduled for Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park to close out the Marlins’ seven-game road trip.
“I definitely didn’t imagine this,” said Yamamoto, who has given up just five hits and three walks while striking out 12 batters through his two shutout starts. “It’s one of those things that a kid can only dream of. It just worked out perfectly in my favor.”
Just how impressive have Yamamoto’s first two starts been? Consider this:
▪ Yamamoto is the first pitcher since Pittsburgh’s Nick Maddox in 1907 to open his career with two wins against the Cardinals in a seven-day span.
▪ Yamamoto is the second pitcher since 1893 whose first two career outings were scoreless starts against the same team. The other: the Atlanta Braves’ Larry McWilliams, who accomplished the feat against the New York Mets in 1978.
▪ He is the only pitcher in MLB history to allow no more than five baserunners while striking out at least five and throwing at least seven shutout innings in back-to-back starts to begin an MLB career.
But the scoreless streak nearly ended after his first pitch Tuesday.
Matt Carpenter, who had three hits in the series opener on Monday, took a change-up and drilled it 402 feet to center field, falling into JT Riddle’s glove on the warning track.
“First pitch, I was like ‘Oh, my God,’” Yamamoto said. “He hit it, and I was hoping the ball stayed in the park because I heard this ballpark plays small. I’m just really glad it stayed in the park.”
Yamamoto, who hadn’t pitched above the Double A level before making his debut last week, allowed just four runners to reach base on Tuesday. All four did so with two outs before Yamamoto promptly retired the next batter to end the inning unscathed.
He threw 99 pitches, 60 of which went for strikes.
“He was about the same as last time,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said postgame with a smile. “He was good. ... He is what he is. He has tough patterns — no real patterns. Obviously seeing a team twice is a battle, especially with an older club like that. It’s good to see.”
And while his fastball wasn’t overpowering — he averaged 90.8 mph with the pitch and topped out at 93.2 mph — his sequencing and ability to command his off-speed and breaking ball pitches made up for his lack of velocity.
Yamamoto’s pitching breakdown on Tuesday: 33 four-seam fastballs (24 for strikes), 34 sliders (18 for strikes), 20 curveballs (11 for strikes), eight change-ups (six for strikes) and four cutters (one for strike).
“We came into the game and knew we had to make in-game adjustments,” Yamamoto said. “After the first inning, we realized they were sitting [on the] fastball. It was more of throwing the off-speed for strikes, specifically my curveball and my slider. Getting them over the plate early and throwing them often.”
He finished the game off strong as well in the seventh. With Nick Anderson warming in the bullpen as a precaution, Yamamoto breezed through his first two batters before giving up a single to Dexter Fowler. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. came to the mound, partially to give Yamamoto a breather and partially to give Anderson a chance to throw a couple more pitches. Yamamoto, already at 93 pitches, had one final chance to end the inning on his terms.
His first pitch to Yadier Molina was off target, putting him behind 1-0 early. Molina then fouled off four consecutive pitches before Yamamoto got him to chase on a 93.1 mph fastball — his second-fastest pitch of the night — to end the inning and his time on the mound.
“A great feeling,” Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto also had help from the offense, which snapped an 18-inning scoring drought when Starlin Castro hit a leadoff home run in the fourth inning. Brian Anderson hit a two-run home run in the seventh and the Marlins (26-45) added three more runs in the eighth to cruise to the shutout victory.
Sergio Romo got the Marlins out of a jam in the eighth after Tayron Guerrero loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter with two outs. Romo induced Paul Goldschmidt into a first-pitch popup to strand all three runners and then threw a scoreless ninth to seal the win.