Shohei Ohtani Shines as Samurai Japan Wins WBC Opener

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan starter Shohei Ohtani fires a pitch during Thursday night’s World Baseball Classic game against China at Tokyo Dome.

The 41,000-plus who packed Tokyo Dome and millions around the country watching on TV were fired up to see Sho-Time on domestic soil, and Shohei Ohtani did not disappoint.

Ohtani, the two-way Los Angeles Angels star, threw four scoreless innings and went 2-for-4 with a two-run double at the plate in leading Japan to an 8-1 win over China in the opening game for each team in the World Baseball Classic’s Pool B on Thursday night.

The Japanese team, known as Samurai Japan, was to face South Korea on Friday night at Tokyo Dome, with San Diego Padres ace Yu Darvish getting the starting nod. South Korea was dealt a surprising loss by Australia in the afternoon game Thursday.

Ohtani, playing in an official game in Japan for the first time since leaving for the major leagues after the 2017 season, allowed just one hit and struck out five, and reached 160 kph on the speed gun.

Three relievers combined to hold overmatched China to two hits, including a solo home run, with 12 strikeouts the rest of the way.

Japanese-American outfielder Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals went 2-for-4 in his Samurai Japan debut and made a sliding catch in the third inning to rob China of a hit. Shugo Maki of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars hit a solo home run in the seventh inning for Japan, which put the game away with a four-run eighth.

The top two teams in the four five-team, round-robin groups advance to the quarterfinals.