Watch as Shota Imanaga defeats Shohei Ohtani in their first match

Two of Japan’s biggest stars went head-to-head on Sunday, with Chicago Cubs rookie Shota Imanaga striking out Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani.

One of the most anticipated matchups in all of baseball on Sunday was Chicago Cubs rookie Shota Imanaga versus Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani.

 

Imanaga was making his second MLB start since coming over from Japan this past offseason. Ohtani left Nippon Professional Baseball in 2017, and he has since established himself as one of the most dangerous players in the world.

The Cubs’ southpaw took the mound Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field with Ohtani due up second in Los Angeles’ lineup. After retiring Mookie Betts to open the contest, Imanaga finally got his shot at his World Baseball Classic teammate.

Ohtani worked his way to a full-count, fouling the ball off four times to stay alive. Imanaga came out on top, though, getting Ohtani to swing and miss on a fastball up-and-in.

 

Imanaga’s showdown with Ohtani and the Dodgers’ very nearly lined up with Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s start in Chicago as well.

Yamamoto, like Imanaga, came over as a free agent from Japan this winter. He wound up signing the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, joining Ohtani and the star-studded Dodgers in the process.

Many saw Imanaga as a consolation prize in the Yamamoto sweepstakes, but Imanaga has been just as effective through the first few weeks of the 2024 regular season. While Yamamoto is sitting at 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.091 WHIP, Imanaga is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 0.400 WHIP.

Yamamoto tossed 5.0 scoreless frames against the Cubs on Saturday. Imanaga answered with a gem of his own Sunday, starting with his strikeout against Ohtani.

Imanaga had thrown 4.0 scoreless innings prior to a lengthy rain delay, although he was ultimately given the hook when the game resumed two hours later. The 30-year-old lefty retired the last nine Dodgers he faced.

Ohtani went 0-for-2 against Imanaga after popping out to third in the third inning. He went 2-for-2 against the Cubs’ relievers, though, adding a double, a triple and an RBI.

Chicago still held on to win 8-1, securing the series victory over Los Angeles.

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