Hiroto Takahashi Impresses In Relief For Japan In WBC Final
MIAMI — One night after Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto impressed in Japan’s semifinal victory over Mexico, another young Japanese pitcher wowed on the world stage.
Hiroto Takahashi, a 20-year-old righthander of the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League, struck out two former MVPs in an inning of work. After allowing a leadoff single to Mookie Betts, Takahashi sat down Mike Trout after an eight-pitch battle. After falling behind 2-0 to Trout, Takahashi battled back to even the count with a splitter he got Trout to chase, followed by a 97 mph fastball Trout fouled off. Trout worked the count full before Takahashi went back to his bread-and-butter splitter. Trout fouled the first one off before swinging through the second.
The following batter was 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt. Takahashi fed the USA first baseman a steady diet of four-seam fastballs to get ahead 1-2. Goldschmidt then laid off an 89 mph splitter in the dirt before Takahashi went back to his four-seam fastball to retire Goldschmidt on a swinging strike three.
The following batter, Nolan Arenado, worked a 2-0 count before sitting back on a splitter and driving it to left field for a base hit. Now with two runners on base and Japan’s two-run lead in the balance, 2022 NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber came to the plate.
With the ability to change the game with one swing, Takahashi wisely stayed away from the zone, falling behind 3-0. Takahashi then landed a fastball in the zone and Schwarber didn’t get enough of it, as he flew out to center fielder Lars Nootbaar.
While it was just one inning of work, Takahashi created significant buzz among scouts, and the phrase “nasty” was thrown about following his inning of work. At just 20 years old Takahashi is likely years away from coming stateside, but he certainly introduced himself to a large portion of the baseball world with his impressive performance.
In 19 games with Chunichi, Takahashi went 6-7 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP while striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings. Armed with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and an upper-80 splitter with devastating bite, Takahashi proved he can stymie even the best hitters on the planet.