MILWAUKEE — It will be a long time before Boston Red Sox fans know if Japanese star Masataka Yoshida’s off-season signing will succeed. Suffice to say, the outlook is looking a lot brighter after his breakout in the eighth inning on Sunday.
Yoshida hit a go-ahead solo homer in the eighth, later in the same inning he topped a nine-run Boston rally with a 407-foot grand slam to the right as the Red Sox defeated the Brewers 12-5 on Sunday defeated.
That gave Boston a series win over the first-place Brewers after Milwaukee erased an early three-run lead and gave them a 4-3 advantage in eighth place.
“This is a team – we’re going to grind until the game is over,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We’ve been doing this all season.”
Yoshida’s first home run came after Justin Turner hit the goal with his second home run of the season, giving the Red Sox back-to-back home runs for the first time since 2021. Both blasts came from Milwaukee reliever Matt Bush.
Grand Slam Yoshida, shot for the right field seats by Javy Guerra, left his racquet at 105.4 mph, a powerful statement for a player who had entered the game and settled into a season-long streak Burglary was found, although one that showed signs of being lifted in recent games. Yoshida, a career .327 hitter in Japan, came on Sunday and hit just .213 with three extra base hits in 71 plate appearances to start his career with the Red Sox.
“I think I’m more comfortable than I was before this series,” Yoshida said through a team interpreter. “I talked to the shot coach about my mechanics and my shot form and found a better one.”
Apparently so. Yoshida became the first Red Sox batsman to hit two homers in an inning since David Ortiz, who did it against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 12, 2008. When Yoshida mentioned this, he knew he had joined a high-profile society.
“I’m really honored to hit the same as a Red Sox legend,” said Yoshida, who signed a five-year, $90 million deal with Boston during last December’s winter meetings.
For now, Yoshida can put those early ugly numbers aside. He started Boston scoring with a first-inning sacrifice fly, which earned him six RBIs for the game and 15 for the season.
Even when Yoshida’s average stayed below the .200 entering the series, the Red Sox felt the quality of his bats was headed in the right direction. He had five hits in his last three games before Sunday’s breakout.
“Obviously there’s an adjustment and there are things he knows he has to do to hit the ball hard in the air,” Cora said. “He got two pitches today, and the second one – that was something to watch.”
At 29 and with a storied international career that includes a recent win at the World Baseball Classics with Team Japan, Yoshida is not your traditional fleet-footed rookie. When his grand slam left the court of American Family Field, he became the first rookie since the Yankees’ Joe Pepitone on May 23, 1962 to hit two home runs in an inning.
Turner, who drew a walk before Yoshida’s slam, quipped, “I told him I’ll do the same, but [Guerra] didn’t throw me any strikes. But of course I’m happy for him. He grinded a bit early and for him this whole series was really spectacular to take these high quality bats.
For Yoshida, it was a matter of adapting to a new team, a new country, a new style of baseball. After the game, he spoke of trying to get a better look at opposing pitchers by opening his stance while working on his timing. The adjustments seem to be paying off.
Still, despite appearing in the spotlight, Yoshida isn’t ready to start partying just yet.
“It’s a really good day for me,” said Yoshida. “But we are still at the beginning of the season. I would like to continue to prepare and play hard all season.”