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Cubs unsung heroes: Tsuyoshi Wada, August 24, 2014

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The Japanese lefty came close to being in the history books.

Photo by Warren Wimmer/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tsuyoshi Wada pitched nine seasons for the Softbank Daiei Hawks in Japan’s NPB, then was signed by the Baltimore Orioles for the 2012 season. He never pitched in the majors for them due to injuries and the Cubs signed him to a minor-league deal before the 2014 season. Wada was 33 years old when he came to the Cubs organization.

Wada made 18 starts at Triple-A Iowa and then was called up to make his major-league debut in the second game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati July 8, 2014. He threw pretty well — five innings, one unearned run — but the Cubs lost 6-5.

Wada remained in the Cubs’ rotation and in his first seven starts posted very credible numbers: 2.75 ERA, 1.169 WHIP, 33 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 39⅓ innings.

On a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon in August when the Cubs were doing another of their throwback jersey days honoring the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field (thus, the “CUBA” jersey shown above), Wada took the mound to face the Baltimore Orioles.

Now, those Orioles were not like the present-day 100+ loss version. They were in a stretch where they made the playoffs three times in five years and in fact, they would be A.L. East champions in 2014 with 96 wins.

But Wada baffled them for six innings. He issued a two-out walk to Adam Jones in the first inning, and that was Baltimore’s only baserunner entering the top of the seventh. The Cubs had fashioned a 2-0 lead on a solo homer by Arismendy Alcantara and an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo. Wada had struck out eight.

Unfortunately, Steve Pearce ruined Wada’s dream of throwing a no-hitter by leading off the seventh with a home run that reached Waveland. Wada faced one more batter — Jones — and retired him. At that point Ricky Renteria came out and got Wada, who had thrown 92 pitches. He left to a warm standing ovation [VIDEO].

Here are 90 seconds worth of highlights from Wada’s outstanding game against Baltimore:

The Cubs won the game 2-1. In fact, they swept that three-game series at Wrigley Field. It was the only time the Orioles were swept on the road the entire 2014 season.

Wada finished the 2014 season with a 3.25 ERA, 1.250 WHIP and 1.5 bWAR, perfectly acceptable numbers considering his age, injury history and the team he was playing for. The Cubs re-signed him to a $4 million deal for 2015, but more injuries ruined his season. He had a late start to 2015 due to a groin injury, then made eight appearances (seven starts) before leaving a game in July with shoulder trouble. He never pitched for the Cubs again and returned to Japan to pitch for his old team, the Softbank Hawks. He was still pitching for them last year at age 38 and is listed on their 2020 roster.