MIAMI – From one’s point of view, it was the perfect ending to the most perfect baseball championship ever.
Team Japan star Shohei Ohtani, perhaps the greatest player ever, faced off against Team USA captain Mike Trout, the most decorated star of the past quarter-century, to decide who is baseball’s most powerful superpower.
In a rivalry for the ages among Angels teammates, Ohtani Trout threw a perfect 3-for-2 slider to close out Team Japan’s World Baseball Classic 3-2 win over Team USA at loanDepot Park on Tuesday night. . The showdown seemed like something out of a Hollywood script in a tournament that captured the attention and imagination of fans around the world.
“Everyone wanted to see the game. Obviously, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” said Trout. “He won the first round. You can’t take anything away from him. To be able to get out of the bullring, as in the beginning, that’s Sho-time”.
“I didn’t want to regret it whether I got it or it hit me. I wanted to pitch my best,” Ohtani said through an interpreter.
The multi-talented Ohtani pitched well in the tournament, but surely won the MVP trophy among the all-time greats.
“This is the best moment of my life,” Ohtani said through a translator.
Shohei Ohtani celebrates with Team Japan after striking out Mike Trout to win the World Baseball Classic.USA TODAY Sports
USA team manager Mark DeRosa noted that Ohtani wasn’t flustered after opening the inning, walking the Mets’ Jeff McNeil along with the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and Trout. Betts hit into a double play before the game everyone wanted to see.
“He has nasty things. 101, 102 is throwing. He threw me a good pitch at the end,” Trout said. “Hats off to him.”
Trout mentioned how proud he was to represent the USA, and DeRosa said how proud he was of his troops. In fact, the team has made us proud. It was just up against a player for the ages: a two-way phenom who didn’t care about the situation and managed to seal Japan’s third WBC title in five events.
“The baseball world won tonight,” DeRosa said. “I wish it had (ended) differently. I was hoping Mikey would get one.”
A packed house, patriotism and passion filled the stands, helping to put a tidy surprise point on a WBC that audiences around the world hoped would rank among the greatest ever, a success that was already underwhelming even before the game’s greatest talents decided things.
The U.S. runner-up came close to repeating, which led to several surprises, thrilling finishes and impressive solo performances, especially from Trea Turner, who became a near-unstoppable force just over three months after signing with the Phillies. In the end, however, a succession of less heralded Japanese pitchers, setup man Yu Darvish and, finally, Ohtani made the difference. The drama and tension could not have been higher.
Mike Trout ends an all-time great World Baseball Classic.Getty Images
“Two of the best players locking horns as teammates in that spot … it never plays out like that,” DeRosa said.
The WBC has come a long way. The excitement, enthusiasm and occasional protests drew more attention, and it doesn’t hurt that the United States and Japan — the sport’s superpowers — advanced to the finals, playing for the title for the first time.
A record home crowd was thought to be a near-possibility, though Japan’s 8:24 a.m. start probably stifled any chance of an all-time record for any baseball game. The interest of the players was surpassed only by the enthusiasm of the fans.
Chants of “USA” could be heard during the final, but the Japanese fans were also in full force. Drums and horns provided a steady soundtrack to a game that settled the question of which country has the best team in the sport, at least until the next WBC in 2026. Everyone will be looking forward to this event. But this will be hard to beat.
“This thing is real,” DeRosa said of the event.
Team USA’s lineup, which had scored 23 runs in its previous two games to reach the finals, was slowed by seven Japanese pitchers on their excellent, deep and relentless pitching staff before superstar Ohtani’s one-day closer wrapped things up.
Shohei Ohtani accepts the WBC Trophy after winning MVP.Getty Images
Turner was the hottest hitter of the tournament, sending his fourth home run in three games into the left field stands, which he had here in the last few days. But while Turner may have been the best hitter of the event, with five total home runs, there is no doubt that Japan won the trophy in winning the first Finals between the all-time favorites.
Japan finished the event a perfect 7-0, their first big scare coming the night before in the semifinals against Mexico, as they beat the USA in pool play and nearly pulled off the upset of pre-event favorites.
The final was the All-Stars of the defending champion United States versus Japan’s all-time pitching staff. Japan won, mainly using a succession of unknown but still talented pitchers, starting with surprise opener Shota Imanaga, who gave the nod to the Padres’ star Darvish.
“Credit to them,” DeRosa said. “They were bringing in some bad guys.”
Japan saved the worst for last. And he made a terrible and almost unreal ending.