Japan defeats USA to win World Baseball Classic, Ohtani sniffs Trout
MIAMI — It was the magic matchup everyone in the baseball world wanted to see, a Hollywood script that defied belief.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout with the World Baseball Classic title on the line.
Teammate against teammate.
MVP vs. MVP.
And as a sell-out crowd shrieked at LoanDepot Park, they watched Ohtani dance off the hill and party on the biggest stage of his career.
Ohtani beat Trout on a full-count slider, raised his hands to the sky and Japan is the 2023 WBC champion, beating Team USA 3-2.
And the Legend of Ohtani just added another chapter.
Ohtani, who has never appeared in a major league game, most recently in Japan in 2016, went back and forth from bench to bullpen three times.
He came on from ninth and promptly led Jeff McNeil on foot. He then prompted a double-play grounder Mookie Betts.
And above came Trout.
The three-time MVP worked the count, swinging and missing two fastballs. On a 3-2 pitch, Ohtani unleashed a slider that Trout sniffed.
And Ohtani was downright bullied by his teammates.
Ohtani, named MVP of the World Baseball Classic, delivered an impassioned speech before the game, urging his team to forget the names on the back of Team USA’s jerseys, ignore their baseball cards — and believe that they’re for their can win country.
“Let’s stop admiring her,” Ohtani said. “If you admire her, you cannot surpass her. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top.
“Let’s jettison our admiration for her for a day and just think about winning.”
Well, they did it in a tournament, a game, and a matchup that will be talked about for generations to come.
Ohtani has never had a chance to see the postseason since joining the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, and Trout has only made the playoffs once, but this was his magic moment.
“I was just thinking that all the people around the world would see the game,” said US coach Mark DeRosa of the Trout-Ohtani duel. “I was like, ‘Wow, the baseball world is still going to win tonight.’
Ohtani finished the tournament with a .435 (10/23) with 1.345 OPS as a batter and 1.86 ERA, two wins and one save as a pitcher.
Make no mistake, although the WBC title meant a lot more to Japan, Team USA was desperate to win this event.
The Americans certainly had nothing to be ashamed of, but they were bitterly disappointed to leave the night without gold medals around their necks.
“This is sort of our Olympics,” said US hitter Kyle Schwarber, who hit a mammoth home run on the top deck in the eighth inning. “We don’t have the opportunity to really play where the Olympics are held. To represent our country and see how fans have reacted to our games, these are playoffs before the season even starts.
There wasn’t anyone on Team USA who said that a WBC title would mean more than a World Series championship, but certainly it meant a lot more than winning an All-Star game or maybe even a preseason postseason series .
“It was kind of like one of those bucket list items,” Schwarber said.
“It’s definitely different from the World Series, but I think it’s very special. That’s also kind of cool because it’s a whole different experience.
“The beauty of this is that it can mean many different things to many different people. It doesn’t change how important that is to us.”
It was a win for Japan, but actually for the entire baseball world.
“Obviously that’s something, I have to start thinking about what the baseball world is going to be like,” said Team Japan Manager Hideki Kuriyama. “So for the Japanese baseball world and the Japanese team playing in the United States, it’s something that we hope Japanese young people will think, ‘Yeah, I definitely want to play in that environment.'”
It was the biggest publicity that Japan could have ever imagined.
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