- Eric Martinez
Ohtani strikes out Trout to win World Baseball Classic for Japan over USA 3 to 2
Every two years the world of baseball tunes in to the World Baseball Classic. Several Major League players have commented how they felt to honored and represent their country in such an event. Japan showed their dominance and discipline the entire tournament. During pool play, Japan did not surrender a loss. During the quarterfinals and semi-finals, Japan showed the ability to come back from behind down several runs most noticeably against Mexico on Monday when a walk off base-hit drove in two runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to seal a 6 to 5 win to head to the WBC final.
Tuesday evening brought fans to Miami expecting a baseball classic and we were treated to some fireworks. USA jumped on the scoreboard early in the top of the second inning when Trea Turner hit a homerun to left field taking a 1 to 0 lead. Turner has been on an absolute tear this year in the World Baseball Classic. Philadelphia Phillies fans should be excited on what is to come from him during the regular season, as he has hit better than .391 batting average and .440 on base percentage. As expected, Japan did not hesitate to tie the game in the bottom of the 2nd inning on a Murakami homerun to right center field squaring the score 1 to 1. During the same inning, Japan generated 2 base runners, and with 1 out, Nootbaar grounded out to first base, but Okamoto scored on a fielder’s choice to give Japan a 2 to 1 lead. Japan’s pitching secured the lead and never looked back. Only allowing 9 hits with a total of 8 strikeouts and 4 walks the staff looked calm and relaxed the rest of the way. Japan also added an additional run in the bottom of the 4th inning with an Okamoto 407 feet home run to left center giving Japan a 3 to 1 lead.
It was not until the top of the 8th inning where USA was able to take advantage of a hanging breaking ball by San Diego Padres’ pitcher, Yu Darvish, which Kyle Shwarber towered to right center field for a 436-homerun cutting the lead 3 to 2. The stage was set for the 9th inning. Japan sent to the mound a familiar face if you’re a fan of baseball. Shohei Ohtani has been one of the best players in the Major Leagues for the past 2 seasons. Not only for his power and on base percentage with the bat, but Ohtani has also generated a low ERA as a starting pitcher with wins for the LA Angels. Japan was the team that helped Ohtani develop the balance of pitching, fielding, and batting. Shohei has become a triple-threat and Japan’s head coach knew how valuable Ohtani would be coming out of the bullpen. On Tuesday night, that’s what was expected and Ohtani did not disappoint. Holding a 3 to 2 lead, Ohtani walked lead off hitter, but was in total control. USA’s Mookie Betts stepped in the batter’s box only to ground into a double play on the second pitch to record two outs in the top of the 9th of the World Baseball Classic.
The crowd roared in Miami. The cheers echoed in the stadium for both sides of fandom. Japan fans stood with excitement and USA fans roared to a matchup between Angels’ teammates Mike Trout vs. Shohei Ohtani. The drama for that matchup was intense and each pitch by Ohtani the speed registered 100 miles per hour fastballs. Trout did his best to fit off pitch after pitch to load the count 3 balls and 2 strikes. Shohei Ohtani could not be stopped.
His artillery as a pitcher truly showed he is one of the best, if not, the best pitcher in baseball setting up Trout to strikeout on a slider that clinched Japan to become the 2023 World Baseball Classic champions. Japan had not won a WBC since 2009. The excitement was displayed; baseball fans were the real winners Tuesday night as we got to see a dream matchup to end the tournament on an exciting at bat. Japan did not lose in the WBC and multiple factors contributed to the dominance, however the difference really can summarize due to the contact hitting Japan showed the entire tournament. It was not always about the homeruns, it was about how the lineups set up runs and the long ball. The impact that this 2023 Japan team will leave throughout the globe will show how the fundamentals of baseball can and will lead to achievements.