Japanese baseball rules the world once again.
The Japanese won their third World Baseball Classic (of five tournaments since the inauguration in 2006), beating the United States, 3-2.
The game was a classic all night, and it ended in storybook fashion.
Everyone was wondering if Shohei Ohtani would pitch. Well, he got the ball in the ninth for a save opportunity to clinch the Classic, while he was already 1 for 3 with a walk, and was due to face defending National League hitting champion Jeff McNeil, American League MVP in 2018, Mookie Betts. , and his Los Angeles Angels teammate, three-time American League MVP Mike Trout.
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It was Ohtani’s first relief appearance since 2016, and he didn’t start well when he walked McNeil to lead off the inning and put the go-ahead run at the plate. Bobby Witt Jr. pinch-ran, but it was moot as Betts rolled into a 4-6-3 double play.
Trout arrived, the matchup the entire baseball world had been waiting for all day, and Ohtani was clearly prepared for it: He hit a fastball up to 102 mph.
Ultimately, Ohtani won the battle, causing Trout to submit with a 3-2 slider, giving Japan the World Baseball Classic trophy.
The game started in the US favor as Trea Turner continued to turn the country on its back, hitting a solo home run in the second to put the US up 1-0, but cheers to the Reds, whites and blues was ephemeral. He hit five home runs in seven games throughout the tournament.
In the bottom half of the second, Merrill Kelly struggled, loading the bases and giving up two earned runs as manager Mark DeRosa went to the bullpen. In the fourth inning, Kazuma Okamoto drilled a solo blast to put Japan up 3-1.
YANKEES FAN ACTS OUTFIELD, RUNS FROM POLE TO POLE AT SPRING TRAINING GAME IN HOPES TO CATCH HOME RUN BALL
The USA had the go-ahead run at the plate in the fifth inning, but Kyle Schwarber hit a can of corn on a 3-0 pitch to get Japan off the hook. In the sixth, American reliever Jason Adam struck out his first two batters, but then walked the 7-9 batters to load the bases, but induced a fly ball by Lars Nootbaar to escape uninjured.
Pinch hitter McNeil led off the seventh inning with a walk, and Betts followed with a single, but after Trout lined out, defending NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt grounded out into a double play that ended the entrance.
The United States went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, a situation in which they had struggled throughout the tournament leading up to the final.
Japan’s bullpen dominated all night, and in the eighth, they went with a starter to come in relief: five-time All-Star Yu Darvish. However, he allowed a solo shot to Schwarber that made it a one-run ballgame. Turner then reached on a bloop single, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but JT Realmuto and Cedric Mullins recorded outs on the first pitch of their respective at-bats.
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Japan won the inaugural Clasico and the second in 2009. The Dominican Republic took home the trophy in 2013 and the United States won in 2017.