By Oh Sang-jin Reporter= Baltimore Orioles Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, 29, will experience fall baseball in his first year in the major leagues.
His team, the Baltimore Orioles, defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 in 11 extra innings in a thrilling finish to the 2023 Major League Baseball World Series at Oriole Park in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on Nov. 18 (KST).
The win clinched a postseason berth for Baltimore, who remained atop the American League East with a 93-56 record (.624 winning percentage). Tampa Bay (92-59, .609 winning percentage), which lost to Baltimore, also punched its ticket to fall baseball when the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners both lost on the same day. Baltimore and Tampa Bay are in a tight race for the AL East title heading into the final stretch of the season.
Baltimore’s postseason berth also puts the spotlight on “rookie pitcher” Fujinami. Fujinami, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Oakland Athletics this offseason, didn’t make much of a splash in his debut. In 34 games (seven starts) for last-place Oakland, he was 5-8 with an 8.57 ERA and three shutouts.
But a trade turned his life around. Moving from the weakest team in the majors to one of the best in the AL, Fujinami’s fastball began to shine as his shaky command improved. With a fastball that topped out at a whopping 102.6 miles per hour (165.1 kilometers per hour), Fujinami transformed himself into an integral part of Baltimore’s bullpen, going 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA and two saves in 25 games.
As Fujinami gets a taste of fall baseball in his rookie year, the mixed fortunes of his “rival” Shohei Ohtani (29-LA Angels) come into focus. Fujinami and Ohtani have long been considered rivals, having both been recognized as superlative pitchers in high school. After making his professional debut, Fujinami made waves with three consecutive years of double-digit wins, but his career went downhill from there, as he struggled with injuries, struggles, and bad luck.
Ohtani, on the other hand, conquered Nippon Professional Baseball as a two-hitter before breaking into the major leagues in 2018 and winning the AL Rookie of the Year. He went on to win the AL MVP in 2021 and finished second in AL MVP voting last year. In 2023, he won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) title and MVP, and this season he’s the favorite to win the AL MVP again.먹튀검증
But even for someone who seems to have it all, Ohtani still has one dream that has eluded him in the major leagues: making the postseason. In his six years in the majors, Ohtani has never made it to fall ball. Despite combining with Mike Trout, who is considered the “best hitter in the game,” the Angels haven’t even made the postseason in the last six seasons, including this one.
Fujinami, who declared his major league aspirations last winter despite all the negativity, was largely overshadowed by Otani and other Japanese major leaguers. However, Fujinami outperformed them and was the first to punch his ticket to fall ball this season. On the other hand, Ohtani, who was one of the most highly touted players but was forced to end his season prematurely due to injury, had another fall baseball disappointment despite his stellar individual performance.