Businesses in Japan shouldn’t expect too much productivity from their employees this morning, assuming they make it into work at all. At 9:00am local time in Tokyo, the Rangers’ Yu Darvish and Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda will square off over 6,000 miles away in Arlington, Texas, marking only the seventh time that two Japanese starters have faced each other in the major leagues.
Although most of the curiosity will probably revolve around Darvish, who was acquired by the Rangers for a record setting rights fee, the Yankees’ Kuroda shouldn’t be cast as an also ran. With tonight’s appearance, the right hander will record his 118th major league start, tying Masato Yoshii for third most by a Japanese pitcher. So, not only will the matchup feature a duel between to Osaka-born starters, but it will take on an air of youth versus experience.
Most Starts by a Japanese Pitcher
The Yankees were also part of the first meeting between two Japanese starting pitchers when they sent Hideki Irabu to the mound against the Mariners’ Mac Suzuki on May 7, 1999. After a slow start that followed a spring in which he was labeled a “Fat Pussy Toad” by George Steinbrenner, Irabu’s greatest concern was holding onto his job rather than beating his countryman. With seven innings of one-run ball, he killed two birds with one stone. However, the reprieve only lasted for one season as Irabu was traded that offseason, effectively marking the end of a promising career that ended with disappointment. Sadly, that may have been part of the reason why Irabu took his life last July.
Unlike the Irabu versus Suzuki matchup, which, even at the time, was viewed as a relatively lackluster confrontation, when Darvish and Kuroda take the mound, the expectations are likely to be much higher. Then again, considering the two offenses each pitcher must face, the odds against a pitchers’ duel seem high. That would be bad news for baseball fans, but a positive for the Japanese economy.