It took until June, but Shun Yamaguchi's debut as a Yomiuri Giant made the wait seem almost worth it with six, no-hit innings in Wednesday's 3-0 interleague win over the SoftBank Hawks.
Of the three players who signed with Yomiuri over the winter after filing for free agency, Yamaguchi was the final one to get in a game. Working carefully, the former DeNA BayStar had good drop on his splitter, but worked extra carefully to the Hawks' most dangerous hitters.
Yamaguchi, who had felt discomfort in his right shoulder since the end of last season and didn't throw batting practice this season until the end of April, was pulled after 102 pitches. He struck out eight and walked four.
After thrilling a Tokyo Dome crowd of 44,053, Yamaguchi left with a 2-0 lead after Hayato Sakamoto hit the first of his two home runs in the bottom of the sixth.
"I was pretty tired, so I'm grateful to Sakamoto for giving us the lead," Yamaguchi said. "The guys made good plays behind me and that's how I could carry it (a no-hitter) so far."
"Of course, I'm happy about this, but more than anything I'm overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude toward this team."
Scott Mathieson struck out three and walked none over two innings, and Arquimedes Caminero overcame two ninth-inning walks to complete Japan's first combined no-hitter since Nov. 11, 2007.
On that night, the Chunichi Dragons' Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase clinched the Japan Series by beating Yu Darvish and the Nippon Ham Fighters 1-0 in Game 5. It had happened four times before in the regular season by Pacific League teams -- the last time on April 15, 2006 by the Fighters -- also against SoftBank -- in a 1-0, 12-inning win.
Sakamoto broke the ice with one out in the sixth off SoftBank rookie Shuta Ishikawa (2-2), who allowed two runs in 5-2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out four.
The Giants captain made it 3-0 in the eighth off Yuito Mori with his eighth home run of the year. The Giants' win was their second in two nights, their longest winning streak since they won three straight from May 21 to May 24.
"Ever since he was in Yokohama, he was a pitcher I hated facing, so I thought he'd pitch well for us," Sakamoto said of his new teammate. "He pitched perfectly and that gave us the boost we needed."
Lions 4, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Takeya Nakamura opened the scoring with a first-inning RBI single and hit a three-run homer in the third off Hanshin ace Atsushi Nomi (2-3), who gave up those four runs after retiring his first two batters in each of those innings.
Swallows 3, Eagles 2
At Jingu Stadium, Yoshinori Sato (2-2) limited PL-leading Rakuten to a run on three hits over seven innings for CL tail-ender Yakult. Dean Green slugged his first Nippon Professional Baseball homer with a solo shot in the sixth for the Swallows.
BayStars 5, Marines 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Lotte's Chen Kuan-yu (1-3) allowed three runs in the first inning, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo hit a solo home run in the third for DeNA. Rookie Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-3) earned the win after allowing a run over 5-1/3 innings.
Fighters 7, Dragons 5, 12 innings
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi blew a four-run lead before Alex Guerrero's solo shot tied it in the ninth, but closer Shinji Tajima (1-3) handed Nippon Ham the go-ahead run in the 12th with two walks and a wild pitch.
Carp 7, Buffaloes 6, 12 innings
At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima's Seiya Suzuki, who famously beat Orix last year with late homers in three straight games, punished the Buffaloes again with his second homer of the game, a solo sayonara shot to lead off the 12th.