Trout vs. Ohtani -- World Baseball Classic Final '23
Miami, FL – Top of the 9th. Two outs. 3-2 count. USA vs. Japan. Trout vs. Ohtani.
With the World Baseball Classic title on the line, Captain America and Samurai Shohei went toe to toe for all the marbles.
Before the two teammates faced each other though, there was already tension percolating throughout LoanDepot Park in South Florida.
The USA’s Jeff McNeil led off the 9th with a walk. Ohtani, who had just one save in his career back in 2016, entered the game lacking command of his fastball. Ohtani was all over the place in warm-ups and was behind the count against McNeil all at-bat.
However, despite the leadoff walk, Ohtani didn’t flinch when the USA’s lineup flipped to the top of the order, bringing former MVP Mookie Betts to the plate.
Betts, one of the most clutch players in the MLB, fell short on the global stage. He speared a sharp groundball right at Japan’s 2nd baseman Tetsuto Yamada, who flipped the ball to shortstop Sosuke Genda, who turned a double play with ease, momentarily diminishing the USA’s hopes of a comeback.
The silence in the ballpark was deafening.
One out away from a WBC championship, Ohtani had to face team USA’s captain and Angels’ teammate, Mike Trout. Everyone in the crowd returned to their feet – phones out, prepared to witness history.
Ohtani opened Trout with a slider down and below the strike zone for ball one. He followed with a heater down the middle at 100mph, and Trout swung directly under the pitch for strike one. Ohtani, aware that Trout was late on the previous pitch, tried to double-up on the heater but missed away and off the plate for ball two.
Determined, Ohtani threw a third straight 100mph, and this one looked eerily similar to his first heater. Trout swung and missed again for strike two.
One strike away, with the weight of all of Japan on his shoulders, Ohtani went back to his heater, reaching back for an extra 2mph. Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Ohtani overthrew his 2-2 heater at 102mph into the dirt, past his catcher, and to the backstop.
“Ohtani’s ready. Trout’s ready. 3-2 … he struck him out! Ohtani strikes out Trout, and Japan is back on top of the baseball world!”
To my surprise, Ohtani did not throw a 5th straight 100+mph heater on 3-2. Trout proved he could not touch Ohtani’s fastball, and Ohtani knew that, yet he went to his slider with the game on the line.
87mph. Sweeping from right to left. PAINTED on the outside corner.
Perhaps, a pitch Trout had seen from centerfield but never witnessed firsthand.
This marked just the 24th time in 6,174 at-bats that Trout swung and missed three times in one at-bat in his career. For context, that means in Trout’s 12-year career, he averages just two at-bats per season in which he swings and misses on all three strikes in an at-bat.
Japan won their 3rd WBC title on Tuesday night, extending their lead over the USA and Dominican Republic who each have one, respectively.