The World Baseball Classic kicked off for Shohei Ohtani and Japan on Thursday, and the Los Angeles Angels’ superstar wasted no time putting his country on his back.
Ohtani pitched four innings of shutout ball on the mound, striking out five batters and giving up just one hit. And he drove in two runs at the plate for the Japanese squad in his first WBC appearance in front of a packed house at the Tokyo Dome.
Shohei Ohtani's 5K's. 😷 pic.twitter.com/L3vO1EBtjU
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 9, 2023
Japan dominated China 8-1 on the back of Ohtani, proving they have as good a chance as any team in the competition to win it all.
Ohtani was given a standing ovation from the home crowd in Tokyo as he approached the plate for his first at-bat, and China put him on base without giving him an opportunity to hit, walking him in four pitches.
The highlight moment of the game for Ohtani came in the bottom of the fourth, when he sent the home crowd crazy with an opposite-field double to score two runs, giving Japan a commanding 3-0 lead.
Putting Japan on his back. 🇯🇵 #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/b5WhjJFE3W
— MLB (@MLB) March 9, 2023
“I’m just like you guys,” teammate and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar said about Shohei Ohtani before the game. “I think I’m just like a fan being able to watch him. I’m just fortunate to get a front-row seat to it. It’s been pretty amazing to watch him go about his business, and how he goes about his work and handles himself on and off the field. It’s really impressive seeing that side.”
Shohei Ohtani agreed to a one-year, $30 million deal with the Angels to avoid arbitration in 2023, and his next one figures to be one of the largest MLB contracts in history.
But first, he’ll look to help Japan win its record third World Baseball Classic, which continues for Japan against Korea on Friday morning.