Baltimore Orioles’ Shintaro Fujinami (29), who gained attention as a high school rival to Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (29), has made a postseason appearance in his first year in the major leagues.
Fujinami pitched ⅔ of an inning in relief against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on Monday (Aug. 18), allowing one run on one hit with one walk and one strikeout.
Taking the mound in the ninth inning with Baltimore trailing 2-3, Fujinami walked leadoff hitter Randy Arozarena. Josh Lowe singled and Isaac Paredes walked, but he induced a grounder to Jonathan Aranda at first base to pick off Lowe at third. With runners on second and third, Fujinami was replaced by Yoenis Cano to finish the night. Cano closed out the inning without allowing a run.
Baltimore clinched a postseason berth with a 5-4 walk-off win in extra innings. With a 93-56 record, the Orioles clinched a first-round bye in the American League East and a direct path to the American League Division Series.안전놀이터
Fujinami’s fastball, which has been clocked at close to 100 miles per hour since his high school days, has been the talk of the town. Since entering the professional ranks, Fujinami has drawn comparisons to Ohtani, who was drafted as a two-hitter. A solid starter in the early stages of his career, Fujinami’s development slowed, and by last season he was 57-54 with a 3.41 ERA in 189 games (994⅓ innings) in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Ohtani, on the other hand, thrived in Japan as a two-way starter and became one of the best players in the majors, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and the American League MVP award in 2021. This season, he continued to excel as a hitter, batting .340 (151-for-497) with 44 home runs, 95 RBIs and a 1.066 OPS in 135 games, and as a pitcher, going 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 games (132 innings). Injuries ended his season early, but he’s still a favorite to win his second MVP award.
Despite the negative outlook, Fujinami declared himself a major leaguer after last season. He signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with Oakland to fulfill his dream.
But the barrier to the big leagues was high. Fujinami struggled in Oakland, going 5-8 with an 8.57 ERA in 34 games (49⅓ innings), and was eventually traded to Baltimore. With his hard fastball, the Orioles were eager to utilize him out of the bullpen, and he lived up to their expectations, going 25-2 with a 3.76 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. In this game, he did his part, topping out at 101.5 mph (163.3 km/h).
Since joining the Angels in 2018, Ohtani has been a revelation every year, but hasn’t experienced the postseason. That’s because the Angels have failed to make the postseason each year, underperforming expectations. It’s unlikely that the Angels will make the postseason again this year. However, Fujinami’s move from underdog Oakland to American League-leading Baltimore gives him a chance to make it to the postseason in his debut season.