Three and two count, two outs, ninth inning, one-run game, a championship on the line and Shohei Ohtani is on the mound versus Mike Trout – a fantasy matchup that fans have imagined for years. Trout and Ohtani, American League MVP winners, are teammates on the Los Angeles Angels, meaning the two facing each other in a game was unprecedented. This fantasy matchup, however, became a reality during the World Baseball Classic and it did not disappoint.
With Ohtani suiting up for Japan and Trout suiting up for the United States, the two got the opportunity to face each other in an at-bat during the WBC Championship game. Japan and the United States paved their paths to the finals, and with Japan holding a one-run lead, they brought in Ohtani, the international superstar, to close out the game.
With the hearts of two countries pounding in anticipation, Ohtani threw Trout a slider on a 3-2 count. Ohtani’s slider broke away from Trout and out of the strike zone, but Ohtani successfully fooled the three-time MVP. Trout swung and missed at Ohtani’s putaway pitch for the final out of the WBC, giving Japan their third all-time WBC victory.
The championship game ended with a 3-2 score and Japan successfully corralled the potent United States lineup to secure the victory. Japan employed an unconventional approach to shutting down the United States offense as they used seven pitchers, with their starter lasting only two innings. The United States was unable to adjust to the variety of pitchers on Japan’s staff, with some sporting triple-digit fastballs and others living in the low 90s.
The Japanese offense provided their pitchers with adequate run support as they won by a narrow one-run margin. Munetaka Murakami crushed a solo home run for Japan in the second inning against United States starter Merrill Kelly. Murakami hit 56 home runs for the Yakult Swallows in the Japan Central League last season. Kazuma Okamoto also hit a solo home run for Japan to give them a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. The other Japanese run was scored in the second inning after a Lars Noorbaar ground-out netted a run.
Although Japan won the championship and crushed the United States’ hopes of winning back-to-back WBC titles, the United States fought valiantly. Trea Turner continued his red-hot WBC campaign with a solo home run in the second inning. The Turner home run opened the scoring in the game.
The Turner home run sparked optimism in the United States dugout, but Turner’s effort was not enough to propel his team’s offense. The United States would only score one more run in the game, which came from a Kyle Schwarber solo home run.
The United States offensive effort can be defined by missed opportunities. The offense tallied nine hits in the game, four more than Japan, but couldn’t capitalize on opportunities with runners on base. Team Japan pitched their way out of multiple jams and the United States walked away from the game knowing they had opportunities to win but failed to get the job done.
For baseball fans, the month of March typically brings anticipation for meaningful baseball that is to come – however, the 2023 WBC brought early excitement for fans. The championship game between Japan and the United States was a thriller with an incredible ending and the entirety of the tournament was full of exciting and emotional baseball. The 2023 MLB regular season is underway and the fans’ attention has already shifted to MLB, but people will certainly not forget the excitement of the WBC and they’ll be looking forward to its return in the future.
Source: Times Delphic