Ex-New York Yankee Masahiro Tanaka loses in return to Japan

Oct 7, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka pitches in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during game three of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Former New York Yankees All-Star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka lost his debut Saturday in his return to professional baseball in Japan.

Tanaka, a 32-year-old right-hander, gave up three runs and four hits over five innings as his Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles fell 4-1 to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

Before transitioning to Major League Baseball, Tanaka pitched for the Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball from 2007-13. The loss Saturday snapped a string of 28 straight wins in Japan for Tanaka.

He has a career 99-35 record in the NPB, which included a 24-0 mark and a 1.27 ERA in 2013.

Sho Nakata hit a first-inning, two-run home run to give the Ham Fighters the lead. The moment was not lost on him.

“He’s a pitcher who represents Japan. He’s an amazing pitcher,” Nakata said of Tanaka, per The Japan Times. “I just connected and I’m glad I got that hit.”

After the 2013 season, Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees, who also paid a $20 million posting fee to the Golden Eagles.

Tanaka chose to return to Japan when the Yankees decided not to re-sign him in the offseason.

In his seven seasons in New York, Tanaka posted a 78-46 record and a 3.74 ERA in 124 games (123 starts). He struck out 991 in 1,054 1/3 innings.

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–Field Level Media