While Shohei Ohtani put in a masterful two-way performance at the World Baseball Classic, Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida likewise made a big impact ahead of his major league rookie season.
Yoshida, who signed a reported five-year, $90 million deal with the Red Sox, batted cleanup in Japan's final three games of the tournament and had a WBC record of 13 RBIs.
He also homered twice and finished with a .409 batting average.
"We played our heart out every game," said Yoshida, who cut his Red Sox spring training short to play at the WBC. "It was a tough decision but my desire to bring the WBC title back to Japan grew through speaking with manager (Hideki) Kuriyama."
The two-time Pacific League batting champion came to the rescue when Samurai Japan was trailing Mexico 3-0 in the seventh inning of Monday's semifinal.
Yoshida pulled a three-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole to tie the game and then drew a walk in a two-run ninth-inning rally that lifted Japan to a 6-5 walk-off victory.
He also threw out a runner at home plate from left field to prevent Mexico from scoring an extra run in the eighth inning.
That play proved to be significant as Japan won the game by one run.
Asked to comment on his at-bats that repeatedly fired up the team, Yoshida said, "I was just lucky."
Last year, Yoshida hit .335 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs in 119 regular-season games. He also helped the Orix Buffaloes win the franchise's first Japan Series championship since Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave triumphed in 1996.
Yoshida has a .327 career batting average with 133 homers and 467 RBIs over seven seasons, all with the Osaka-based Buffaloes.
With Japan's WBC victory, Yoshida is expected to receive a warm welcome back to the Red Sox.
"I'd like to spend a season without an injury," Yoshida said.
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