All of the hype in the World Baseball Classic Semifinal game was surrounding two Japanese players. Shohei Ohtani obviously generates headlines as the best player in the sport. Even when he's not pitching, he gets the biggest cheers of any player. The other player generating headlines was Team Japan pitcher Roki Sasaki, and again, for good reason.
Sasaki is a 21-year-old with a 1.95 ERA in his first two seasons pitching in professional ball in Japan. He has electric stuff and was hitting triple digits with his fastball regularly in this game.
A player who did not get the hype players like Ohtani and Sasaki got was Patrick Sandoval. The Los Angeles Angels hurler pitched really well against Team USA earlier on in the WBC but still flies under the radar despite posting a sub-3.00 ERA last season. He showed the world just how good he is last night.
Patrick Sandoval dominates but Shohei Ohtani advances
This semifinal game was as big of a win for the Angels team as possible. Patrick Sandoval looked dominant once again on the big stage. The southpaw delivered 4.1 scoreless innings in this win-or-go-home game, giving up just four hits and one walk against a very formidable Japanese lineup. He struck out six in the defeat.
Sandoval was helped out by some nice defense, particularly from Randy Arozarena in left field, but he was carving up these hitters all night and showed some serious emotion doing so.
Sandoval struck out the side in the opening inning, all on sliders. He threw more than 50% sliders in that inning as it was razor sharp. He struck out not only Lars Nootbaar, but also his teammate Shohei Ohtani on a devastating 3-2 pitch.
Sandoval was masterful all night and departed with a 3-0 lead. It's unfortunate for him that his team couldn't seal the deal.
A big reason why they couldn't was Shohei Ohtani. The Angels superstar had two hits in two at-bats including a walk once Sandoval departed. One of those hits was a leadoff double in the ninth. He'd end up scoring the tying run on the Japan walk-off hit.
Ohtani was as animated as I've ever seen him on that leadoff double, as he attempted to will Japan to the finals. It worked, and now we have the matchup we've all been waiting for. Ohtani vs. Trout tonight.
Whether Shohei will pitch or not remains to be seen, but these two superstars will battle it out at the plate at the very least and see who wins the WBC championship. It should be an unbelievable game.