There is a new baseball world champion.
Japan defeated defending champion Team USA, 3-2, in the World Baseball Classic championship game Tuesday night at LoanDepot Park in Miami.
In the end, it all came down to arguably the two biggest superstars in the tournament, teammate vs. teammate. Japan called on Shohei Ohtani to close out a 3-2 game in the top of the ninth inning. After rolling Mookie Betts into a double play, Ohtani’s Angels teammate Mike Trout intervened.
After working through a 3-2 count, Trout went down swinging on a slider for the final out, as poetic an ending as the baseball gods could have written.
After all the debate over the pitching of the Americans, it was their lineup that didn’t answer the call at the most important moment. The loaded lineup that featured nine All-Stars went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position as a string of Japanese pitchers including Ohtani and Yu Darvish held the United States at bay.
( Energized by the World Baseball Classic, Gleyber Torres returns to the Yankees )
The only drive of the night came from the Phillies on the club. Trea Turner hit a solo home run in the second inning, his fifth home run of the tournament tying a WBC record. Kyle Schwarber also fired a solo shot in the top of the eighth to bring the United States within a run and cut the deficit to 3-2, yet it was all Mark DeRosa’s club had to offer for the night.
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Merrill Kelly was the starter and was the man who did the most damage to Japan. Kelly pitched 1.1 innings allowing two earned runs, one by Muneteka Murakami — a 115.1 mph, 432-foot blast in the bottom of the second inning.
Murakami hit 56 home runs in the Japanese Central League and appears to be highly sought after by MLB teams once he is potentially placed in a few years.
Kyle Freeland took a piece of the workload after Kelly didn’t provide much time for the Americans. The Rockies left-hander pitched three innings allowing a home run to Kazuma Okamoto that ended up being the deciding factor as a third run.
Jason Adam, David Bednar and Devin Williams pitched three scoreless innings as the United States finished off the strong pitching performance.
The next World Baseball Classic will take place in 2026. The United States put together a historically talented team, though they fell short, yet the team could look very different three years from now.
Paul Goldschmidt will be 38 years old, Nolan Arenado will be 34 years old, as the two returning from the 2017 squad may not be in the plans for the future tournament.
And with superstars like José Altuve and Edwin Díaz sustaining serious injuries, the All-Stars’ willingness to compete — and their teams’ eagerness to send them off — will be something to watch out for in future tournaments.