Masahiro Tanaka may have pitched one of his best games last night as he tossed a complete game shutout against perhaps the best offensive teams in the NPB, the Softbank Hawks. He also struck out 18 batters and fell one short of tying the NPB record of 19 set by Koji Noda on 4/21/1995.
Other interesting notes from the game:
...Tanaka's previous strikeout high for a game was 15.
...Tanaka's strikeout victims: Seiichi Uchikawa (3), Hiroki Kokubo (3), Munenori Kawasaki (2), Yuichi Honda (2), Alex Cabrera (2), Nobuhiro Matsuda (2), Katsuki Yamazaki (2), Hitoshi Tamura (1), Jose Ortiz (1). It should also be noted that going into last night's game, the Hawks struck out 699 times (2nd highest in the PL), so they are a team that is somewhat prone to striking out, especially batters like Matsuda (96, 2nd highest in PL) and Cabrera (78, 8th highest in the PL). On the flip-side, Uchikawa (9.5 AB/SO), Kawasaki (7.3 AB/SO) and, Honda (6.9 AB/SO) have been somewhat difficult to strike out this year.
...the 18 strikeouts may not have tied or set a new NPB record, but they are a first of sorts: of the 18 strikeouts, 17 were swinging strikeouts, which is the most recorded in game; Noda didn't win his start, so the 18 strikeout performance is a high for a winning pitcher.
...Tanaka is also just the third pitcher in NPB history to record two 15 or more strikeout games in one season (15 vs Yakult on 5/20 and 18 vs Softbank). The other two: Noda (1993, 15 K and 16K) and Yu Darvish (2011, 15K x 2). He's also the 7th pitcher to record two games in which he struck out at least one batter in every inning. The other six: Takumi Otomo (1954), Kazuhisa Inao (1958), Yutaka Enatsu (1968, 1970), Isamu Kida (1980, 3 times), Suguru Egawa (1981, 3 times), and Kazuhisa Ishii (1998).
...the shutout dropped Tanaka's NPB league leading ERA from 1.48 to 1.40 (20 G, 9 CG, 167.1 IP, 118 H, 175 SO, 21 BB, 28 R, 26 ER). Darvish has the 2nd best ERA in the NPB at 1.56.
...this was also Tanaka's third straight complete game victory in a row (8/13 vs Lotte, 8/20 vs Softbank, and 8/28 vs Softbank).
...the Eagles won their 4th in a row against the Hawks for the first time since 7/2007. They current general 7-game winning streak also ties a franchise record.
...the 18 strikeouts set a new franchise high for the Hawks (their previous high of 17 was set in 1962).
Sanspo is carrying an interview with Tanaka:
[Coming into the game] the team had won 6 in a row...
I didn't want to the streak to end with me. I also wanted to go the distance because we've been leaning on our bullpen a lot lately.
How did you feel on the mound?
I felt ok I guess. I felt much better my last outing (on the 20th). The movement on my breaking pitchers improved over the course of the game and I think I pitched well.
The offense gave you 5 runs of support.
I was prepared for another close game, but they scored 5 runs for me and that made me think, "I need to complete this game."
You managed to get out of jams in the 5th and 7th on strikeouts...
All my pitches were working for me today and I felt that if I got ahead in the count, I'd be able to get a strikeout.
You set a new personal high in strikeouts, which also happens to be 2nd most in NPB history...
I had 15 after 8 so I put everything into it in the 9th.
(UPDATE 8/28 @ 3:15pm - added a couple more notes; UPDATE 8/28 @ 4:20pm - added Sanspo interview)