Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (29) of the Baltimore Orioles has experienced fall baseball since his first year of major league debut.
Fujinami’s team, Baltimore, achieved a thrilling walk-off victory of 5-4 after an 11th inning overtime match against the 2023 Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays held at Oriole Park in Baltimore, Maryland, USA on the 18th (Korean time).
Baltimore, which maintained the lead in the American League (AL) Eastern Division with a record of 93 wins and 56 losses (a winning percentage of 0.624), confirmed its advancement to the postseason with this victory. Tampa Bay (92 wins, 59 losses, 0.609 winning percentage), which lost to Baltimore, also secured tickets to fall baseball as both the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners lost on the same day. Baltimore and Tampa Bay are competing fiercely until the end of the season for the AL East division championship.
With Baltimore’s confirmation of advancing to the postseason, ‘rookie pitcher’ Fujinami also received attention. Fujinami, who signed a one-year contract worth $3.25 million with the Oakland Athletics this season and entered the major league stage, did not receive much attention in the beginning of his debut. He had poor performances for bottom-place team Oakland, with 5 wins, 8 losses, 3 holds, and an ERA of 8.57 in 34 games (7 starts).
However, the trade brought about a life-changing drama. Fujinami, who transferred from the weakest team in the Major League to a team competing for the best in the AL, began to shine with his fastball as his weak control problem improved. Fujinami, who boasts a fastball with a maximum velocity of 102.6 miles per hour (approximately 165.1 km), has transformed into an indispensable member of Baltimore’s bullpen, recording 2 wins, 1 hold, 2 saves, and an ERA of 3.76 in 25 games since his transfer.
As Fujinami got to taste fall baseball in his first year of debut, his mixed fate with his ‘rival’ Shohei Otani (29, LA Angels) also came into the spotlight. Fujinami and Ohtani were in the spotlight as super high school level pitchers during their high school days and were mentioned as rivals for a long time. After his professional debut, Fujinami attracted attention by recording double-digit wins for three consecutive years, but then went downhill after suffering from abuse, sluggish performance, and gossip.
On the other hand, Ohtani conquered Japanese professional baseball as a double hitter, then advanced to the major leagues in 2018 and won the AL Rookie of the Year award that year. Ohtani, who caused a syndrome with his unrealistic ‘double sword style’, went on to win the AL MVP in 2021 and finished second in AL MVP voting last year as well. In 2023, he won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and won MVP, and is also considered a strong candidate for AL MVP this season.스포츠토토
However, even Ohtani, who seems to have achieved everything, has an unfulfilled dream in the major leagues: advancing to the postseason. Ohtani has never played a fall baseball game in the six years he has played in the major leagues. Although he teamed up with Mike Trout, who is considered ‘the best hitter in history’, the Angels have never recorded a winning percentage of .500, let alone the postseason, in the past six seasons, including this season.
Fujinami, who declared his bid for the major league last winter despite everyone’s negative views, was largely overshadowed by the performance of Japanese major leaguers, including Ohtani. However, Fujinami surpassed them and enjoyed the joy of being the first to win a ticket to fall baseball this season. On the other hand, Otani, who received the most attention but had to end his season early due to injury, shared his joy and sorrow with Fujinami as his fall baseball season was once again frustrated despite his outstanding individual performance.