Hall of Famer John Smoltz said it best.
“Mano a mano right here. USA’s captain versus Japan’s captain,” said the FS1 commentator who set up the confrontation between Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout with two outs in the ninth inning in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic
The two teammates from the California Angels facing off for the first time-Ohtani for Japan and Trout for Team USA.
It came down to a three and two count. Ohtani threw a slider that started across the plate but ended up a little outside. Trout swung and missed. Ohtani threw off his glove, then his cap as his teammates mobbed him.
They were World Baseball Classic champions, winning 3-2.
“I was not expecting him to be the last batter of the game, Ohtani said about his matchup with Trout while speaking through an interpreter to Fox Sports. “I thought it was a possibility, but I can’t believe he was the last batter of the game.”
Sports Illustrated reports that Team USA faced seven different pitchers in the championship game. It was part of a masterful strategy by Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama.
“They weren’t letting us see a guy twice. I think that was a game plan going in,” said Trout to Sports Illustrated. “They had some nasty stuff, especially when you don’t see those guys the second time. If you do, you probably have better results. But they came out there and competed, made some pitches and it was tough.”
Team USA jumped out to an early lead, 1-0 in the second inning on a home run by Trea Turner. It was his fifth homer in the classic and if Team USA had won, he might have been named MVP.
That honor would go to two-way player Ohtani. 10 hits on 23 at-bats. 9 runs, 8 RBIs including 1 homerun. He even had 10 walks.
As a pitcher, he threw 9 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and an earned run average of 1.86.
Japan’s Munetaka Murakami came back with a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the second to tie the game and a ground out would later score Kazuma Okamoto for Japan also in the second inning to take the lead for good.
Okamoto would homer in the fourth for a 3-1 Japan lead. Designated hitter Kyle Schwarber scored the final run with a solo shot in the eighth.
Still, all the talk at the end of the game was about Ohtani and Trout.
“I was just thinking about all the people around the world watching the game,” USA manager Mark DeRosa said of the Trout-Ohtani matchup. “I was like ‘wow, the baseball world’s gonna win tonight regardless.”
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