Japanese baseball rules the world again.
The Japanese won their third World Baseball Classic (out of five since inaugurating in 2006), defeating the United States, 3-2.
The game was an all-night classic, finished in comics fashion.
Everyone wondered if Shuhei Ohtani would come close. 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 slated to face defending champion Jeff McNeil, 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, and three-time Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trott.
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It was Otani’s first relief appearance since 2016, and he didn’t start hot as McNeil walked to lead off the inning and put up a lead at the plate. Bobby Witt Jr. pinch ran, but it was disputed as Bates hit a 4-6-3 double.
Trout came along, the game the entire baseball world had been hoping for all day, and Ohtani was clearly ahead—he called for a 102-mile-per-hour fastball.
In the end, Otani won the fight, landing Trout on a 3-2 slider, giving Japan the Baseball Classic World Cup.
The game started in the USA’s favour, as Trea Turner continued to put his country on the back, blasting a solo homer in the second inning to put the US ahead 1-0 – but the Red, White and Blue’s joy was short-lived. He hit five homers in seven games throughout the tournament.
In the bottom of the second inning, Merrill Kelly got into trouble, loading the bases and being charged with two earned runs as manager Mark DeRosa went shopping center. In the fourth, Kazuma Okamoto hit a leadoff solo to give Japan a 3-1 lead.
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The USA got on the board in the fifth inning, but Kyle Schwarber hit a corn can on the field 3-0 to put Japan out of the way. In the sixth, USA reliever Jason Adam struck out his first two batters, but then walked the seven batters to 9 to load the bases, but pushed Lars Nutbarr out unscathed.
Pinch-hitter McNeil led off the seventh inning with a walk, and Betts followed with a single, but after Trout lined out, NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt defended the double play at the end of the inning.
The United States went 0-for-7 with runners-up in the scoring position on Tuesday, a position they had been in throughout the tournament before the final.
The Japanese Bulls dominated all night, and in the eighth, they went with a rookie to come out of the relief: five-time Yu Darvish star. However, he allowed a solo shot to Schwarber that made it a one-ball game. Turner then reached on a single, bringing the lead to the plate, but JT Realmuto and Cedric Mullins scored outs on the first pitch of their own at bats.
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Japan won the inaugural Classic as well as the second in 2009. The Dominican Republic took home the trophy in 2013, and the United States won in 2017.
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