Mar 22, 2023 - Sports

Japan reclaims World Baseball Classic crown

team japan celebrating win

Photo: Megan Briggs/Getty Images

After two weeks of thrilling action, the best World Baseball Classic ever got a Hollywood ending.

Driving the news: Japan beat the United States, 3-2, on Tuesday night in Miami to win its third WBC title and first since 2009.

The final at-bat: Shohei Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout on a full count to end it. You can't make this stuff up.

  • 88 mph slider down (1-0)
  • 100 mph fastball swung through (1-1)
  • 100 mph fastball outside (2-1)
  • 100 mph fastball swung through (2-2)
  • 102 mph fastball down (3-2)
  • 87 mph slider swung through. Strike three, game over.

🍿 Watch: All six pitches of the at-bat, and the final out as called on Japanese TV.

Recap: Four of the game's five runs came on solo shots, as neither team could deliver with runners in scoring position (combined 0-12). And all four homers came from guys who know a thing or two about dingers.

  • Second inning: Trea Turner hit his fourth bomb in three games, and fifth of the tournament, tying a WBC record.
  • Second inning: Munetaka Murakami, who hit 56 homers last season in Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan's top league), tied things up.
  • Fourth inning: Kazuma Okamoto, the only player with 30+ HR in each of the last five NPB seasons, hit a moonshot to give Japan a 3-1 lead.
  • Eighth inning: Kyle Schwarber obliterated one off Yu Darvish to pull the Americans within one. He's now hit homers in the American League and National League Wild Card games, American League and National League Division Series, American League and National League Championship Series, World Series and WBC Championship. Here's all of them.

The big picture: Ohtani, named tournament MVP, spent the past two weeks cementing the case he's been not-so-quietly building over the last two years: that he's the best baseball player on the planet.

  • At the plate in the WBC, he hit .435 with 4 doubles, 1 HR and 8 RBI — and had the hardest-batted ball (118.7 mph).
  • On the mound, he went 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA, 11 strikeouts and a save in 9.2 innings — and tied for the hardest-thrown pitch (102 mph).
  • Plus: He also legged out an infield single on Tuesday by running to first base in a lightning-quick 4.16 seconds.

What he's saying: "I believe this is the best moment in my life,” Ohtani said after the game. 🥹

The bottom line: When the WBC began, we wrote that it had the chance to become the type of global event that baseball has never truly had — so long as the stars put on a show. Mission accomplished.

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