Shintaro Fujinami got off to a bright start before giving up eight runs over 2-1/3 innings and getting tagged with a loss on his MLB debut Saturday, as the Oakland Athletics lost 13-1 to the Los Angeles Angels.
The former Hanshin Tigers right-hander struck out four during his two perfect opening innings with good use of his fastball and splitter, getting two-way star Shohei Ohtani, considered his pitching rival in high school, to ground out in the first at Oakland Coliseum.
But Fujinami walked his first batter to begin a nightmare third in which he yielded five hits and three walks, letting Ohtani get within centimeters of a grand slam when the World Baseball Classic MVP's line drive hit the top of the left-field wall for a single that plated a run for a 3-0 lead.
"I had been able to attack with my fastballs up till that point, but I overthought things (in the third) and started relying on breaking balls," Fujinami said.
"Their batters found their timing, especially on my slider...I need to look back on the fact that I threw many pitches. I believe that's the biggest reason I got hit."
The Angels scored 11 runs in the third to all but seal the contest. Ohtani, batting third as the designated hitter, went 2-for-5 with two RBIs after driving another run with a single in the sixth.
"(Fujinami) got me to ground out early in the count at my first at-bat," said Ohtani. "I think the number of samples is too few for me to comment on him, but his start was fantastic."
While admitting he was not in a position to enjoy the occasion, Fujinami was eager to build on the experience.
"It was great facing not just Ohtani but the world's other best players. I'm honored to have stood (on the MLB mound)," he said.
"It ended up being a frustrating debut, so hopefully, I can redeem myself next time."
"What's done is done and can't be helped. It made me think I have to study lots of things, like what kind of pitches to use."
Baseball: Ohtani gets no decision, Yoshida has 2 hits on MLB Opening Day
Baseball: Oakland's Fujinami set for MLB debut against Angels, Ohtani
Baseball: Shohei Ohtani tunes up in minor league game for Opening Day start