Typically, there isn’t much hype around a spring training game, but Tuesday was different at Hohokam Stadium.
That's what happens when Japanese pitchers Shintaro Fujinami and Shohei Ohtani shared the field in the big leagues for the first time. The two faced each other in Japan’s famed Koshien high school baseball tournament, and came head-to-head again nine years later Tuesday.
Fujinami made his Athletics debut, taking on the Los Angeles Angels -- and it didn’t disappoint.
The Japanese flamethrower's first pitch clocked in at 97 mph. He went on to strike out the A’s nightmare that is David Fletcher to start the game.
“I felt really good in the first inning, but I was trying to do too much in the second,” Fujinami said through an interpreter (h/t MLB's Martin Gallegos). “I kind of lost my command. But in the middle of the [second inning], I got the feel back.”
After an impressive first inning, Fujinami walked the first three batters to begin the second inning as the situation grew tense. But with bases loaded and no outs, Fujinami survived the inning with a strikeout and a double-play. Phew.
His fastball reached 97 mph with his splitters up to 92 mph. He also sprinkled in some sliders but missed high on a number of them. His final line: 2IP, 1H, 0R, 3BB, 3K.
Less surprising, though, was Ohtani’s outing. The Angels’ two-way star looked sharp as ever, throwing 2 1/3 hitless innings. He threw 34 pitches with two walks, two strikeouts and his fastball reaching as high as 98 mph.
The grand "show" was over once Ohtani left the mound, and the noticeable larger-than-usual media presence -- which included 40 members of Japanese media -- gathered around the Japanese phenoms.
“It didn’t bother me,” Fujinami said of all the extra attention. “It’s just a spring game. But I know Japanese fans were looking forward to us facing each other. I thought this game showed Japanese fans some good entertainment.”
Unfortunately, the A's weren't able to build off of Fujinami's start.
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Though Jace Peterson blasted a three-run home run for the A's lone lead of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, Oakland lost, 11-5.
Not the outcome they had hoped for, but one thing is certain: Mt. Fuji is sure to turn heads this season with the A's.