Aiming to win the World Baseball Classic (WBC), the first championship since 2009, the Japanese national team faced Italy in the quarterfinals and won 9-3 on April 16. The Japanese team advanced to the semifinals.
With one out in the third inning and the score 0-0, Shohei Otani, who had hit .500 in four games in the first round, opened the scoring with a bunt and scored a run when Masanao Yoshida, who was batting fourth for the first time in this tournament, grounded out to short. Then, with two outs and runners on first and second, Kazuma Okamoto hit a three-run shot into the left field stands. The two, who are close enough to go to Disneyland together in private, scored four runs to take the lead.
In the four games of the first round, they had 10 hits, two doubles, and one run batted in. The long-awaited shot came at Tokyo Dome, the familiar home of the Giants. After the game, Okamoto’s hero interview elicited laughter with his unique, almost barbed delivery.
–How do you like the cheers you always get at the Tokyo Dome?
—How do you feel about today’s home run?
“It’s the best.”
—How was your lap around the diamond?
—How do you like the cheers when you go to America?
He didn’t show his white teeth until he had completed his lap of the diamond, perhaps out of anger at his past inadequacies. Still, when he returned to the bench and was congratulated by his fellow players, and when he heard the cheers of the Tokyo Dome, his face broke down.
Yoshida with the first timely hit and Okamoto with the lead. Hirokazu Ibata, who provided commentary for the Prime Video broadcast of the March 7 WBC training game against the Orix, revealed an amusing episode. Ibata had been in close contact with Okamoto as a player and coach during his time with the Giants.
We used to go to Disneyland together,” he said. I used to show him pictures of those trips. He told me that Yoshida would come to stay at Okamoto’s house in Tokyo. This was before they got married. …… I think they are still good friends even after their marriage. Mr. Ibata continued, “What do they talk about?
I asked him, ‘What do you talk about? I asked him what they talked about, and he said, ‘Just being in the same space in silence,'” which drew laughter from the broadcast staff, including the play-by-play announcer.
The live broadcast staff, including the play-by-play announcers, laughed.
I’d like to go to Disneyland, where those two are going. I might want to see those two more than Mickey. Ibata then revealed a further secret story: “I’ve never been to the site (of Disneyland), but they were wearing headgear (in the picture). The announcer unintentionally replied, “You two could get married,” and the live baseball game was filled with laughter, not unlike a live baseball game.
Okamoto then hit another two-run double in the fifth inning to make it 5-2. Yoshida also hit a solo home run to the right field bleachers in the seventh inning to make it 7-2, and Yoshida and Okamoto combined for seven hits. The tide, which once seemed to be swinging in Italy’s favor, did not change until the very end.
Shohei Ohtani, who played “No. 3 pitcher and DH” for the second time in the WBC on this day, was in the same position as he had stated in his press conference the day before the game : “The number of pitches is fixed, but I think the most important thing is to throw each pitch individually without thinking about what will happen next. Manager Hideki Kuriyama also commented, “I felt from the first inning that we wanted to do something. That desire was felt by everyone, including myself. However, Otani gave up two runs in the fifth inning. The lead was temporarily tied at two runs.
However, after the second pitcher, Hiromi Ito, and the third pitcher, Shota Imanaga, Yu Darvish pitched two innings from the seventh inning, and the “relay” of Otani and Darvish taking the mound simultaneously in the final game of the Tokyo round of the WBC was realized. The Samurai Japan team flew to the United States that night. The Samurai Japan team flew to the U.S. that night.
I wanted to fight with the thoughts of the great predecessors of Japan and those who created baseball, but I always thought that in order for baseball to truly develop, we must go to the United States and beat the players playing in the U.S. in order to move forward. I will do my best to win.”
He hopes to bring the dream he has shown to Japanese baseball fans to fruition in Miami by becoming the world’s number one baseball player for the first time in three tournaments.