It was the dream matchup that everyone hoped to see: Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Fans clamored to see the Los Angeles Angels teammates up against each other. Two powerhouse players on two powerhouse teams.
And that’s exactly how the 2023 World Baseball Classic ended. Ohtani, the two-way phenomenon, took the mound in the ninth inning. All hopes of handing Japan its third WBC title. And with a powerful inning that included a six-pitch strikeout of Trout to end it, Ohtani sent Japan into pandemonium.
So for the first time in six years that the two-week tournament’s been held, baseball fans were treated to a spectacle of the best names in the game. And the finale of this one was well worth it as we got to see some of our Philadelphia Phillies wrap up their time in Red, White, and Blue.
Team USA is really the Philadelphia Phillies 2.0
Our boys from Citizens Bank Park had a good outing during this series. In the final game, both runs from Team USA came off the bats of Kyle Schwarber and new Phillie Trea Turner. They’ve been part of a decent showing for all of the Phillies in the World Baseball Classic, also including J.T. Realmuto.
Team USA Phillies stats at the World Baseball Classic:
- Turner: .391/.440/1.043 (1.483 OPS), 5 home runs, 9 hits, 11 RBI
- Schwarber: .214/.450/.643 (1.093 OPS), 2 home runs, 3 hits, 4 RBI
- J.T. Realmuto: .500/.533/.667 (1.200 OPS), 6 hits, 2 RBI
Turner, who had something of a coronation during this WBC, opened up scoring in the second. He sent a solo homer to left field and the dinger was just what Team USA needed to get this one rolling.
Bottom of the second, Munetaka Murakami had his own solo dinger to tie this game up at one run each.
But Japan wasn’t done yet as Lars Nootbaar grounded into a fielder’s choice that knocked in a run. 2-1 Japan in the bottom of the second.
Kazuma Okamoto added another run to Japan’s lead by crushing a solo bomb to left center to make it a 3-1 game in the bottom of the fourth.
Shota Imanaga held the U.S. to one run in the first two innings and the bullpen took it from there. In all, seven pitchers were utilized, six of whom are starters for Major League teams. Yet once we got to the 8th inning, this is where the game got interesting.
12 outs and the end is thrilling
Yu Darvish pitched the eighth inning and he nearly gave up the lead. Enter Schwarber in the top of the eighth. The Schwarbs made it a one-run game when he finally straightened out his swing.
He crushed Darvish’s pitch into the right field bleachers after a handful of foul balls to make it a 3-2 game in the eighth. A ShwarBOMB from Schwarber if you will.
But the ninth inning became SHO-time. After walking Jeff McNeil, Ohtani got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play. With a 2-0 count, Japan moved one out away from securing the title. Then became the matchup that everyone was waiting for Ohtani vs Trout.
Ohtani vs Trout headlines the night
He fired a century shot on his fastball to Trout and he whiffed it. 1-0 strike count. Ohtani got him to a 3-2 count and then came the strike heard the world:
With that final strike, a sold-out crowd at loanDepot Park screamed. They saw Ohtani dance off the mound, celebrating on the biggest stage of his career. And now, in eight days, they get to see him again as the MLB season hits Opening Day.
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee