This was the showdown between two of the best baseball players in the world, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, that many had hoped for since they first heard of them.
Ohtani, the two-way wonder, played both the DH and the pitcher roles for Japan throughout the game, and he had the chance to seal the deal in the ninth inning. Ohtani caused complete chaos in Japan with a spectacular inning that culminated in a six-pitch strikeout of Trout, his Los Angeles Angels colleague.
Japan defeated the United States by the score of 3-2 on Tuesday at loanDepot Park in Miami to win the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The United States won the World Baseball Classic in 2017, despite the fact that it did not adopt the competition as rapidly as other countries.
“This is the best moment in my life,” Ohtani, 28, said later through an interpreter. It was no shock that he was the tournament’s most valuable player due to his outstanding performance across the board.
Japan went 7-0 in the quadrennial two-week tournament behind the power-hitting and tough pitching of a cast of characters that went far beyond just Ohtani, solidifying the country’s position as the best in the tournament’s brief history, which began in 2006. Japan has won three of the five World Boxing Championships.
The United States struggled despite having a roster full of former MVPs and All-Stars take the field against a Japanese team that featured many of the best players from Japan’s top professional league as well as some of Major League Baseball’s brightest lights, including Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani said : “This really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world”
Ohtani dubbed American baseball their benchmark. Although our time together was brief, I will always cherish my time spent on the field with my friends.
Ohtani displayed his speed by squeezing a single past American shortstop Trea Turner in the bottom of the seventh inning. Also, after the inning was done, he jogged over to the bullpen in left field for Japan to stretch out his right arm.
Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout said he knew their meeting with Ohtani was on the horizon when Ohtani jogged off the field after his final at-bat. Ohtani stated he hoped for it but didn’t expect it would come to pass.
Trout, now 31 years old, believes “every baseball fan” would have enjoyed seeing such a thing and stated as much. For the past three weeks, I’ve been fielding inquiries about it.
Hideki Kuriyama, manager of the Japanese baseball team, continued, “Everyone in America felt Shohei and Trout facing off would be great. My appreciation for baseball grew while watching that. Meaningful because it represents the continuity of life.
Darvish, a veteran of the major leagues who currently pitches for the San Diego Padres, has added some suspense to the game. Darvish came into the game in the eighth inning as a relief after having been scheduled to start the last game until a lineup change the day before. However, DH for the USA Kyle Schwarber smacked a solo home run into the right field stands to cut the margin to a single run and re-energize the crowd of 36,098.
Ohtani in the bullpen meant that Japan just needed a one-run lead to win. Ace Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani made his first bullpen appearance since 2016 for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Ohtani encouraged his teammates before the game to quit looking up to the opposition’s superstars.
You can’t top them if you admire them, he reportedly said. We’re above them because we came here to win. Let’s forget about how much we respect them for a day and focus instead on beating them.
In the bottom of the second inning, the United States scored first against Japan. Turner, a shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies and a key figure for Team USA earlier in the W.B.C., hit his sixth home run of the tournament. Shota Imanaga, the starting pitcher for Japan, threw a low fastball that he clobbered into the left-field stands. After the game, Turner and the many American fans in attendance were all smiles in the dugout.
The advantage, however, did not last for very long. After the Americans took an early lead in the second inning, Japan’s slugging third baseman Munetaka Murakami drew the game by crushing a fastball from American starter Merrill Kelly over the left field fence. Murakami hit a home shot that was measured at 432 feet, setting a new Japanese single-season record for home runs by a player born in the country.
After two singles and a walk by the Japanese batters, Kelly was removed from the game. Outfielder Lars Nootbaar, whose mother is Japanese and who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals, scored two runs with a groundout to put his club ahead, 2-1.
Japan’s offensive prowess was on full show in the fourth inning. First baseman Kazuma Okamoto faced Kyle Freeland and hit a hanging slider over the wall in left-center, increasing Japan’s lead to 3-1.
Okamoto declared, I’m on top of the world, afterward. It’s especially satisfying that we were unbeaten while facing what may be the finest lineup ever assembled in baseball, as Nootbaar put it.
Then in the latter innings, Darvish made a mistake, Schwarber hit a home run, and the anticipated showdown finally occurred. Kuriyama revealed that he and Ohtani had lately discussed the prospect of relieving. Still, he admitted that it was tough to choose just when in the game to send Ohtani to the bullpen.
While running the bases, Ohtani got his uniform pants muddy. He subsequently revealed that while on the pitch, he felt both nervousness and gratitude toward the sport he loves.
Ohtani threw a 102 mph fastball at Jeff McNeil, the first batter of the game, but walked him. Mookie Betts grounded into a double play, and then Mike Trout came to the plate. There was a moment of exchanged glances between the two.
Trout referred to him as a competitor, man, meaning that he is fiercely competitive. That’s why he’s number one, you know.
Ohtani’s fastball reached 100 miles per hour, but he was behind in the count, 3-1. The final out was on a sweeping slider he threw, but Trout was able to avoid it. Ohtani jumped off the pitcher’s mound, yelled, and threw away his equipment.
He won Round 1, Trout remarked, implying that the two would meet again at the 2026 World Baseball Classic. Ohtani, formerly Trout’s teammate on the Angels and now an opponent in the W.B.C., had similar sentiments.
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