The Reds have not made any moves yet this offseason, outside of the coaching staff. However, there is one Red that was still playing baseball this past week to give Reds fans something and someone to cheer for.
MLB Japan All-Star Series
For the first time since 2014, the MLB and Japan brought back the MLB Japan All-Star series. 28 players from Major League Baseball managed by Don Mattingly traveled to Japan to play in exhibition games, along with a series against Samurai Japan.
The MLB team consists of players from the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and one from the host country Japan in Kenta Maeda. The coaching staff also added an eighth country to the team in Curacao native Hensley Muellens, with Japan native and former Yankee Hideki Matsui on the staff as well.
The Reds’ Representative
However, the most important player on the roster, at least for Reds fans, was All-Star third basemen, Eugenio Suarez. Suarez was honored to be asked to participate and was excited to represent Venezuela as well. It was another achievement to add to his fantastic season.
Suarez noted he was excited to travel to Japan and learn from the Japanese players and the culture. Before the series had started he enjoyed a humorous moment with his family and Yusmeiro Petit’s family, both sporting a kimono.
The MLB All-Stars did not fare well in Japan. In the first game, Suarez went 0-2 in three at-bats but managed a walk and scored and scored on an Amed Rosario single in the third inning. Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto was the star of the one of two MLB wins, with two RBIs including a home run. MLB won the first game, but this was just an exhibition.
Game two, the first game of the actual series, Japan ended in walk-off fashion. Yuki Yanagita hit a two-run home run with two outs off of Padres’ Kirby Yates to give Samurai Japan a 7-6 win. Rosario was the star for the MLB in this game with three hits in four at-bats, including a home run and three RBIs. Unfortunately, Suarez was unable to get rolling, going hitless in four at-bats.
In game three, there was much less excitement, unless you were rooting for Samurai Japan. The MLB All-stars allowed 17 hits and 12 runs, with the game never being close. Mariners’ Erasmo Ramirez got the ball and only lasted three innings allowing five runs. Red Sox’sMi Brian Johnson did not help relieve the pain, allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings. The game was over at that point.
Realmuto remained hot at the plate, while Nationals’ Juan Soto homered in his second straight game. After a poor game one, Suarez did not make an appearance in their second consecutive loss.
The Win and the Dodger
In the MLB’s only win during the series, they provided a solid showing both offensively and on the mound. Who else but Realmuto would be the first to put a run on the board with a solo home run in the fourth.
Suarez was finally able to get his first hit in Japan, with an RBI double in the sixth inning to extend the lead to 6-1. Outside of two runs in the ninth inning, the MLB dominated in this game, hoping this performance would lead to a comeback in the series.
The most anticipated start of the series game in game five. Japan’s very own and current Dodger Kenta Maeda took the hill to the appeal of the whole stadium. The start was short-lived, but not because of a poor outing. He tossed two scoreless frames with just one hit and two strikeouts.
The offense was only able to muster up five hits, with Suarez collecting one of them for his second game in a row with a hit. He also got plunked in the seventh inning. Despite the lack of offense, they went into the ninth inning with a two-run lead. Yates once again pitched poorly, allowing two hits and two walks along with four runs, two earned, in just 2/3 innings. Suarez’s single came in the ninth, putting the tying run at the plate, but a strikeout and fly-out put Samurai Japan up three games to one.
Unable to Mount the Comeback
In a must-win game five, MLB did what they had been doing all series in Japan. They took an early lead yet again behind a strong start from Brewers’ Junior Guerra. After five innings, he was relieved by Red Sox’s Hector Velazquez. Velazquez had a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, before the rails came off in the seventh.
Velazquez allowed three consecutive singles, before a throwing error by none other than Velazquez himself. After a strikeout, he then allowed a game-tying double before finishing the inning. In the eighth inning, a two-out double by Takuya Kai put Samurai Japan up by one and that was all she wrote, putting Japan one win away from winning the series.
In game five, Johnson got the start. He escaped the first inning while allowing two singles, before an awful second. A leadoff walk, followed by two singles and a triple, caused Mattingly to pull Johnson from the game, the fourth run would also score though. This would be the first time Japan did not trail late in the game.
Despite garnering 10 hits, the only time they could get on the board was from a solo shot from Braves Ronald Acuña Jr. Eugenio Suarez had his best game in Japan, with two hits to finish the MLB Japan All-Star Series with four hits. With a 4-1 final, Samurai Japan won the MLB Japan All-Star series.
Suarez Says Sayonara
Although Suarez may not have had the best series, he was grateful for the opportunity and the experience. Suarez said it was a dream come true to be able to play and loved the fans passion in Japan. The only unfortunate part of the series being over, other than losing, is that we will not get to watch everyone’s favorite third baseman until spring training in 2019. It will be exciting to see who he will be playing alongside with him then after the offseason.