Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka likely will win a big multiyear contract from a Major League team this offseason, but on Saturday he was handed a loss -- one that snapped the longest unbeaten streak in professional baseball history.
Tanaka had racked up 30 consecutive starts without a defeat -- dating back to last August -- before taking one in Game 6 of the Japan Series, which his Rakuten Golden Eagles lost to the Yomiuri Giants, 4-2. But he bounced back quickly in Game 7 on Sunday, one day after throwing 160 pitches, by throwing a scoreless ninth inning and picking up a rare save.
Tanaka's fourth career save completed the Golden Eagles' 3-0 win over the Giants and secured Rakuten's first Japan Series title.
The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka, and if they do, several teams figure to bid for the right to negotiate a contract with the 25-year-old, who went 24-0 with a 1.24 ERA during the regular season.
On Saturday, Tanaka tossed a complete game but gave up four runs on 11 hits. He surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to former Major League infielder Jose Lopez in the fifth inning; Yoshinobu Takahashi later added the go-ahead single.