Shota Imanaga continues impressive MLB start, raising record to 4

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Shota Imanaga continues impressive MLB start, raising record to 4-0 as Cubs beat Red Sox 7-1

Shota Imanaga continues impressive MLB start, raising record to 4-0 as Cubs beat Red Sox 7-1

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

April 27, 2024 at 12:15 JST

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Photo/IllutrationChicago Cubs starting pitcher Shota Imanaga throws to a Boston Red Sox batter during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 26, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON (AP) — Shota Imanaga continued an impressive start to his major league career by pitching one-run ball into the seventh inning to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 7-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Signed to a $53 million, four-year deal during the offseason after an eight-year, professional career in Japan, the 30-year-old Imanaga (4-0) beat Boston right-hander Kutter Crawford in a matchup of two pitchers with impressive ERAs.

“Just more of the same,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said of his left-hander. “Just attacking the strike zone. Again, No. 1, just in the strike zone. That's how he pitches every single time. ... By being in the strike zone so much you start to get hitters that start to get aggressive on him, and then he's getting some quick outs.”

Coming off a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field over the Astros, the Cubs rode a two-hit, two-RBI night by rookie Pete Crow-Armstrong for their fifth win in six games. Patrick Wisdom added a pinch-hit, two-run double.

Tyler O’Neill hit his eighth homer for the Red Sox, who fell to 3-8 in Fenway Park.

Imanaga held Boston’s offense, which has struggled at home and came in hitting just .198 in Fenway, to five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk over 6 1/3 innings, raising his ERA slightly to 0.98.

“I did have one walk, but I was able to attack the zone,” he said through a team translator.

Boston manager Alex Cora said before the game that the Red Sox had a video chat with him before he signed with Chicago.

“There's things I can talk about and things I can't talk about," Imanaga said. 'We talked about the kind of pitches I throw and how unique it is in MLB, and how I can use those pitches."

Of joining the Cubs over Boston he said: “It was really just me and talking to other guys around me, I came to a decision and I can't really talk about that.”

Crow-Armstrong got his first MLB hit, a tiebreaking two-run homer on Thursday that snapped a 0-for-16 start to his career.

Crawford (1-1) gave up four runs, three earned, on 10 hits over six innings, raising his ERA to 1.35 from a major league best 0.66.

“I can't have my head down after an outing like this,” he said. “My main goal every time I take that ball is to try and throw as many strikes as possible and attack hitters. I feel like when I look back at this outing I was able to do that.”

He allowed two runs on four hits in the second — both more than he has totaled in four of his previous five starts this season — when Chicago grabbed a 2-0 edge. He had not given up more than a run in each of his other starts.

Matt Mervis had an RBI single and Crow-Armstrong added a run-scoring single after Cora won a challenge that he wasn’t hit by a pitch, forcing him back to the plate.

Crow-Armstrong’s safety squeeze scored Dansby Swanson, making it 3-0 in the fourth. Swanson held about halfway down the line before breaking to the plate when Crawford turned his back and threw to first.

After breezing through the first 10 batters, Imanaga gave up O’Neill’s homer into the center field bleachers.

The lefty worked up in the zone — sometimes just out of it — with a fastball in the low 90 mph range and down with a sharp splitter.

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