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Ohtani Shines as Japan Beats U.S. to Win World Baseball Classic


MIAMI — The matchup that many had dreamed about all along — between two of the world’s baseball powerhouses and two of its absolute best players in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout — is strictly what it got here right down to.

Ohtani, the two-way phenomenon, was Japan’s designated hitter all game and took the mound within the ninth inning with the prospect to shut out a title. And with a strong inning that included a six-pitch strikeout of Trout — his Los Angeles Angels teammate — to finish it, Ohtani sent Japan into pandemonium.

With the 3-2 win, Japan dethroned america on Tuesday at loanDepot Park in Miami and claimed the 2023 World Baseball Classic trophy. America, which didn’t embrace the tournament as quickly as another countries, won the W.B.C. the last time it was played in 2017.

“That is the perfect moment in my life,” Ohtani, 28, said afterward through an interpreter. To nobody’s surprise, he was named the most precious player of the tournament for his all-around excellence.

Behind power hitting and stout pitching, from a forged of characters that went far beyond just Ohtani, Japan went 7-0 within the quadrennial two-week tournament and further cemented its place as the highest country within the relatively short history of this tournament, which began in 2006. Within the five editions of the W.B.C., Japan has now won 3 times.

Despite a lineup full of All-Stars and past winners of the Most Priceless Player Award, america mustered little against Japan, a team made up mostly of stars from that country’s top skilled league, together with some M.L.B. stars like Yu Darvish and Ohtani, who’s arguably the sport’s best player.

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“This really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team on this planet,” said Ohtani, who called American baseball as their benchmark. “It was a really short time, but I actually enjoyed fidgeting with my teammates.”

In the underside of the seventh inning, Ohtani showed off his speed by beating out a throw from United States shortstop Trea Turner to earn a single. And when the inning was over, he jogged over to Japan’s bullpen in left field to warm up his right arm.

Trout, a three-time American League M.V.P., said he began to see the potential for their showdown coming together when he saw Ohtani head that direction after his final at-bat. Ohtani said he had been hoping for it but didn’t think it might actually occur.

“I believe every baseball fan desired to see that,” Trout, 31, said. “I’ve been answering questions on it for a month and a half.”

“Everyone in America thought Shohei and Trout facing off can be ideal,” Japan Manager Hideki Kuriyama added. “Watching that made me consider how great baseball is. It’s symbolic of life.”

Meanwhile, Darvish, a longtime major leaguer who pitches for the San Diego Padres, injected drama into the sport. Originally lined up to begin the ultimate game until a switch the day before, Darvish entered as a reliever within the eighth inning. But United States designated hitter Kyle Schwarber blasted a solo home run into the best field seats to trim the deficit to at least one run and re-energize the gang of 36,098.

A small lead, though, was enough for Japan with Ohtani looming as a better. Ohtani, the ace of the Angels, made his first relief appearance since 2016, when he played for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.

Before the sport, Ohtani addressed his teammates and told them to stop admiring the superstars on the opposite side.

“In the event you admire them, you possibly can’t surpass them,” he said, in line with reports. “We got here here to surpass them, to succeed in the highest. For at some point, let’s throw away our admiration for them and just take into consideration winning.”

America struck first against Japan within the second inning. Turner, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop who powered america earlier within the tournament, smashed his fifth home run of the W.B.C. He clobbered a low fastball from Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga into the left field seats. The numerous United States fans in attendance and Turner beamed within the dugout afterward.

However the lead didn’t last long. In the underside half of the second inning, Japan tied the rating when the slugging third baseman Munetaka Murakami destroyed a pitch from United States starting pitcher Merrill Kelly into the upper deck. The house run by Murakami, who set the Japanese single-season record for homers by a native-born player last season, with 56 for the Yakult Swallows, was measured at 432 feet.

Japan’s lineup then chased Kelly from the sport with two singles and a walk. A groundout by Lars Nootbaar, a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder whose mother is Japanese, gave the team a 2-1 lead.

Within the fourth inning, Japan again displayed its strength on the plate. Facing Kyle Freeland, first baseman Kazuma Okamoto sent a dangling slider over the left-center field wall to increase Japan’s result in 3-1.

“I’m on top of the world,” Okamoto said afterward. Added Nootbaar, “Playing against possibly the best lineup that’s ever been assembled in baseball history makes it sweet that we did it undefeated.”

Then within the later innings got here Darvish’s stumble, Schwarber’s blast and the matchup that everybody desired to see. Kuriyama said he had recently talked to Ohtani about the potential for relieving. But he said it was difficult to choose when to send Ohtani to the bullpen throughout the game.

When Ohtani left the bullpen, his uniform pants were dirty from running the bases. He later admitted he was nervous but felt gratitude toward the game he loves while standing on the mound.

Ohtani fired a 102-mile-per-hour to the leadoff batter, Jeff McNeil, but walked him. After he got superstar Mookie Betts to hit right into a double play, up got here Trout. The 2 made transient eye contact.

“He’s a competitor,” Trout said. “That’s why he’s the perfect.”

Ohtani hit 100 m.p.h. along with his fastball but he fell right into a 3-2 count. Then he fired a sweeping slider that Trout missed for the ultimate out. Ohtani bounced off the mound, screamed and tossed his gear aside.

“He won round 1,” said Trout, suggesting Team U.S.A. can be back for the subsequent edition of the W.B.C., which can be held in 2026. Trout’s Angels teammate, and now W.B.C. rival, had the identical thought: “I might like to enter again,” Ohtani said.

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