World Baseball Classic: Shohei Ohtani beats Mike Trout for finals as Japan defeats USA 3-2 in finals
MIAMI– Emerging from the bullpen, Shohei Ohtani cheered on Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout for the finals in a matchup the whole baseball world wanted to see, leading Japan 3-2 on Tuesday night against defending champion USA for their first World Baseball Classic title winning since 2009.
Ohtani, the two-way star who has captivated fans on two continents, was voted WBC MVP and clutched the award to his chest.
Ohtani took down an infield single as the designated hitter in the seventh inning before heading down the left field line to the Japanese bullpen to warm up for his third hilltop appearance of the tournament.
Flashing his 100mph heat, Ohtani went with big league batting champion Jeff McNeil early in the ninth game before tricking Mookie Betts to land in a double.
Trout, the US captain and three-time MVP, then closed the game with a full-count breaking ball. Ohtani’s only other save was in a post-season playoff game in Japan in 2016.
Ohtani hit .435 with a homer, four doubles, eight RBIs and 10 walks when Japan joined the Dominican Republic in 2013 and became the only undefeated champion of baseball’s premier national team tournament. Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP, was 2-0 with a save and a 1.86 ERA on the mound, hitting 11 in 9 2/3 innings.
Japan went 7-0, beating their opponents 56-18, reaching the finals for the first time since winning their first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009. No other nation has won the title more than once.
Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto scored as Japan took a 3-2 lead.
Trea Turner put the USA in second place with his record-breaking fifth home run of the tournament, and Kyle Schwarber pulled the Americans on one run when he trailed Yu Darvish in eighth place.
It was the second major title in a row for the Japanese, who beat the USA 2-0 in Yokohama to win the 2021 Olympic gold medal. Japan fielded top players in this tournament, while the US fielded sacked top leagues and top prospects.
Turner put the USA ahead in the second inning with a left drive against Shota Imanaga (1-0), tying South Korea’s Seung Yuop Lee for most WBC wins in 2006. That lit up a sell-out crowd of 36,098 – fans received bracelets with flickering colored lights.
Murakami, already a two-time Central League MVP at 23, leveled the score in first place bottom half when Merrill Kelly (0-1) raised a fastball. Murakami drove it into the upper deck in right field, 432 feet away, at 115.1 mph.
Murakami’s doubles at the end of the game gave Japan a 6-5 win over Mexico in Monday night’s semifinals, and his third-inning homer against Nick Martinez put Japan ahead in the 2021 gold medal game.
Japan loaded the bases in the second on singles from Okamoto and Sosuke Genda and a walk to Yuhei Nakamura. Lars Nootbaar, the first non-Japanese player to play for the Samurai Warriors, followed up with a run-scoring groundout on Aaron Loup for a 2-1 lead.
Okamoto extended the lead in the fourth when he sent a flat pusher from Kyle Freeland over the left-center wall.
Japan were beaten 9-5 when Imanaga combined with six assists to keep the USA 0-7 with the runners in goal position. The 29-year-old left-hander and Shosei Togo each scored two innings, Hiroto Takahashi, Hiromi Itoh and Taisei Ota all had three outs each, with Ota escaping troubles with two opponents with no outs by pulling Trout back on a flyout and Paul bringing Goldschmidt to one double play.
Trout and Ohtani hugged behind the batting cage during pregame practice, then held their nation’s flag as they led their teams in single file to home plate during introductions, Trout along the right field line and Ohtani on the left.
Several thousand fans arrived hours early to watch Ohtani practice batting and applauded as he hit a drive from the video panel above the second deck in the middle.
Trout hit .296 in the tournament with one homer, seven RBIs and 12 strikeouts.
MONEY IS IMPORTANT
Japan will receive $3 million in prize money and the US will receive $1.7 million. Half of that goes to players and half goes to the National Baseball Association.
MLB openings are March 30, the same day the season begins in Japan.
https://abc7.com/wbc-final-shohei-ohtani-mike-trout-strike-out/12988459/ World Baseball Classic: Shohei Ohtani beats Mike Trout for finals as Japan defeats USA 3-2 in finals