MIAMI: Shohei Ohtani delivered a fairytale 3-2 victory for Japan over the United States on Tuesday (Mar 21) as the Asian powerhouses won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) for a record third time.
Home runs from Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto helped put Japan ahead before Los Angeles Angels superstar Ohtani closed out the win from the mound in the ninth inning.
In a perfectly scripted finale at Miami’s LoanDepot Park, Ohtani struck out Angels teammate and US captain Mike Trout to clinch Japan’s third WBC victory following triumphs in 2006 and 2009.
Two-way threat Ohtani, the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player who has earned comparisons to Babe Ruth since arriving in Major League Baseball, said that the win was the highlight of his career.
“It’s definitely number one,” Ohtani told Fox television through a translator. “It’s got to be up there. It was a storybook ending.”
“More than anything, I appreciate this tournament, this whole situation, this whole atmosphere,” added Ohtani, who was named tournament MVP.
Ohtani had fired up Japan with a rousing pre-game speech in which he urged his teammates to “stop admiring” an American line-up regarded as the strongest US baseball team ever assembled.
“Obviously, the US line-up, one through nine, they’re all household names, superstars,” Ohtani said afterwards.
“All the Japanese guys know them. So I didn’t want us to be passive. Show respect – but stay aggressive, stay confident.
“That’s why I gave that speech.”
The star-studded US team, defending champions after winning the last edition of the tournament in 2017, were left ruing their inability to get on top of Japan’s pitchers.
Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner blasted the hosts to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning with a solo shot to left field.