Masato Yoshii : 1999 Mets NL Wild Card Pitcher (1998 - 1999)

Masato Yoshii
was born April 20, 1965, in Osaka, Japan. The tall six-foot two right hander was originally drafted in Japan in 1984.


Japan-Nippon Pro Baseball: Yoshii struggled with high ERAs in his first two seasons pitching for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and earned his first career win in 1987. In 1988 he was the Pacific Leagues Relief pitcher of the Year, winning 19 games while posting 24 saves. He saved twenty more games the next year and eventually converted over to being a starter with the Yakult Swallows in 1993.

He won ten or more games the next three years, having a career year in the final year of his contract. He wanted to remain loyal to his team but his agent convinced to shoot for higher salaries with other teams Some in Japan felt he was asking more than he was worth. 

His friend Hideo Nomo convinced him to come over & pitch in America. He refused all offers in Japan to sign on with the New York Mets for $200,000 with incentives that would make him a million in his first year.

Mets Career: Yoshii made his MLB debut starting the fifth game of the 1998 season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his first MLB win. Yoshi allowed just three hits & struck out seven in that game. 

In May he won three straight decisions, including a complete game performance where he allowed just one run on May 21st against the Cincinatti Reds at Shea Stadium.

He was 4-1 at the beginning of June but he would lose his next five decisions, and not earn another victory until August 19th. He would win just one more game the rest of the season, coming in his last outing of the year in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 29 games he went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA striking out 117 batters in 177 innings pitched, giving up 22 HRs while walking only 55 batters

1999 Wild Card Season:
Yoshii was once again on Bobby Valentines pitching staff. 

He began the season as the teams fifth starter. On April 9th he pitched seven innings allowing HRs to the Expos Vlad Guerrero & Michael Barrett but still earned the win as Mike Piazza & Robin Ventura both went deep for the Mets in Montreal. In his next three starts that month he gave up four run or more each time, taking three straight losses.

In May Yoshii won four straight starts, starting with a two hit six inning shutout performance against the Diamond backs in Arizona. He continued with victories in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh as well as a win at home over the Brewers.

On June 5th he gave up six runs in a subway series match up in just four innings of work taking the loss. At the All Star break he was 7-7 with a 5.06 ERA.

After three no decisions, as well as a relief appearance closing out a 10-3 win in Milwaukee, he suffered a loss to the Giants on August 13th. But from there on Yoshii got better closing out the year with five straight winning decisions in August & September during the wild card chase. 
He also got better run support than the previous year, especially down the stretch. 

On August 18th, Yoshi pitched a complete game, one run, six hitter in San Diego to start his win streak. On August 24th he held the Astros to a single run at Shea Stadium, but Mike Hampton & Billy Wagner held down the Mets to a single run as well. Dennis Cook served up a three run HR to Jeff Bagwell in the 10th inning for the Astros win.

In his next start which came in Houston Yoshii shut out the Astros for six innings to earn his ninth win. On September 5th, he reached double figures in wins with a victory over the Rockies, striking out a season high nine batters in the game. 

On September 11th Yoshi & Pat Mahomes combined for a victory in Los Angeles. On September 18th Yoshii earned his 12th win of the year holding the Phillies to a run in seven innings of work. 

In his final two starts Yoshii allowed just a single run each time, but he earned no decision as the Mets bullpen blew both games.

He would pitch into the sixth inning or beyond in all his wins, finishing the year at 12-8 with a 4.40 ERA. In 29 games he struck out 105 batters in 170 innings, helping the Mets catch the Wild Card title & go to their first post season since 1986.

1999 Post Season- NLDS: In the NLDS he started Game #2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, going into the 6th inning giving up four runs on six hits while earning no decision. He served up HRs to Erubiel Durazo & Luis Gonzalez blowing a three-run lead. 

The Mets did eventually win the game 8-4, led by Edgardo Alfonzo's 8th inning grand slam.

1999 NLCS: In the NLCS he got the call from Bobby Valentine to start Game #1 in Atlanta against Greg Maddox & the Braves. 

In the 1st inning Gerald Williams singled stole second & scored on Brett Boone's base hit. He held the Braves down until the 5th inning, when Walt Weiss doubled & Gerald Williams broke the 1-1 tie with a base hit scoring Weiss. Yoshii took the loss giving up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings pitched. He struck out one & walked two.

He returned to start the eventual classic Robin Ventura "grand slam single" Game #4 and was one of the nine Mets pitchers used in the extra inning win. In the game Yoshii allowed two runs on four hits in just three innings pitched. 

In the 1999 off season, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for the left-handed Bobby Jones & Lariel Gonzales. 

Post Mets Career: Yoshii got hit hard in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Colorado, going 6-15 (sixth most losses in the league) as he posted a 5.86 ERA. 

He was released after the season and signed on with the Montreal Expos. Yoshi pitched for the Expos in 2001-2002 going 8-16 over those seasons with a 4.44. In 2002 he had surgery on his left shoulder & finished his MLB career at age 38.

Career Stats: After pitching five seasons in MLB, he was 32-47 with a 4.62 ERA, 447 strike outs & 222 walks in 162 games pitched. 

Japan-Nippon Pro Baseball: He returned to pitch in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes (2003-2007) where in his final season there he played under manager Terry Collins. Yoshii finished his career with the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2007 at age 42. 

Pitching Coach & Manager: Yoshi became a pitching coach for the Nippon Ham Fighters (2008-2012). He then coached one year with the Fukuoka Soft Bank Hawks (2015) before returning to the Ham Fighters (2016-2018). In 2019 he moved on to coach the Chiba Lotte Marines (2019-2021). In 2023 he became the Marines manager.

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