Shoei Otahni makes Japan Champion of the World Baseball Classic 2023: scores, stats and highlights of USA defeat
WBC ends in dramatic fashion as Japan win third title
WBC ends in dramatic fashion as Japan win third title
The drama was already set before the game. These two teams were always destined to meet here, anything else would have been an asterisk next to the title. When world heavyweight champions want to legitimize their title, they have to fight other champions. The USA are a championship team. But Japan are the champions.
The game got off to a huge start with Mr Automatic, Trea Turner putting up another home run, his fifth of this tournament, to open the scoring in the second. But Japan came roaring back in the bottom half of the inning with a 432-foot moon shot off the bat of Munetaka Murakami.
Nootbaar sacrificed in a run and then Kazuma Okamoto hit another solo shot an inning later to make it 3-1, and that is where it stayed, with these two heavyweights standing toe-to-toe and trading blows, nobody wavering, until the eighth.
In shades of the 2022 NLCS, Kyle Schwarber did to Yu Darvish what he did then and took a low pitch to right field for a solo shot to pull back a run. But that is where the USA's attack faltered.
And then, drama of all drama, Shohei Ohtani was brought on as a closer. He got the first two outs and then the drama ratcheted up a gear. He came face to face with Mike Trout. The best player in Japan versus the best player in America, for the bragging rights to say which is the best in the world.
One's best pitch against the other's best swing. And Ohtani didn't back down from the challenge. Feeding Trout straight heat, the count ran full and Ohtani gave him a hard slider for a swinging strike three. Wow! That was the moment that every baseball fan lives for.
Japan now are the only team to have won the World Baseball Classic three times, and they are back on top of the baseball world.
Team USA should go away from this with their heads held high. They have been excellent throughout the competition and played their hearts out in this final.
Rob Manfred has announced that the WBC will "100%" be back in 2026 and that is perhaps the best news of all.
That is going to be the end of our live commentary coverage of the 2023 World Baseball Classic. We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did!
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As Shohei received the gold medal, he was also presented with the MVP award for the tournament.
Ohtani's pregame speech to his team was one that got his team ready to take on the world.
“Let’s stop admiring them. … If you admire them, you can’t surpass them. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top. For one day, let’s throw away our admiration for them and just think about winning.”
Gold medals presented
Japan now will file by and recieve their gold medals. They have earned it in every sense of the word. Team USA saw first-hand how talented Japan are. For American audiences, there are some Japanese players that they knew and others who were a revelation, and what a revelation they were!
Silver medals presented
The teams are both gathered on the field for the medal presentations. Team USA file by one by one and are presented with the silver medals. There is applause in the stands and also by the Japanese team, who more than anybody recognize the accomplishment that USA has made. They have nothing to be ashamed of, they played an outstanding game and sometimes you can just get beat.
That was amazing! Ohtani and Japan are full of emotion! Japan are now the first team ever to win the WBC three times, and there is no doubt that they are the kings of international baseball!
The payoff is a slider and Mike Trout strikes out swinging! Ohtani has won it for Japan!
Three time champions, Japan!
The count runs full. Oh the drama!
Trout gets the straight heat. Ohtani is throwing everything at 100mph.
And this is what everyone wants! Mike Trout is the USA's last hope, with two outs, facing team mate Ohtani.
Mookie Betts stands in and hits a chopper to second. Yamada flips it to Genda for one, over to first and it gets him! 4-6-3 double play
Japan are just one out away from becoming champions.
Bobby Witt Jr will now come on to pinch run for McNeil.
McNeil works the count full and Ohtani's payoff delivery misses to give McNeil a free pass. All four of those balls missed by less than an inch.
Lars Nootbaar will shift over to left field for Japan as Taisei Makihara comes in for Masataka Yoshida and takes over in center.
Jeff McNeil will lead off for team USA with only three outs left in their WBC life.
Well, this is what everyone was waiting for. Samurai Japan are going to take Yu Darvish off the mound and bring on Shohei Ohtani to pitch to the top of the USA order in the ninth inning.
The drama is just dripping off of this!
Genda slaps a roller to third. The throw from Arenado JUST gets him to end the inning.
Sosuke Genda now comes up and Yamada takes off. The throw from Realmuto was great and Turner's tag perfect, but Yamada beat it. Stolen base.
Tetsuto Yamada stands in and works the count full before the payoff misses and Yamada draws the two-out walk.
Kazuma Okamoto comes to the plate and while he puts up more of a struggle, goes out the same way, swinging at that same nasty change up. Two down.
Munetaka Murakami will lead off for Japan and he chases three change ups low for a leadoff strikeout.
Team USA will tap Devin Williams to shut down Japan and give themselves a chance to come back.
Cedric Mullins comes to the plate and lifts the first pitch out to center field. Lars Nootbaar has no trouble bringing it down to end the inning. But the USA have made this a game again!
Realmuto attacks the first pitch and pops it straight up, behind short stop. Genda will get under it and put it away for out number two.
JT Realmuto comes up representing the go-ahead run for USA. Shohei Ohtani is up and working in the bullpen.
Trea Turner will stand in now line a little blooper into center field for a one-out single.
Six more foul balls bring the count to 2-2 and Schwarber smashes the tenth pitch of the at bat to the upper deck of right field! Just like that, it is a one-run game. USA claws one back 3-2
Kyle Schwarber will stand in and rips a foul ball into the ROOF! My word was that hit a long way.
Arenado jumps on the fastball and lifts it high out to center for Lars Nootbaar. He puts it away for one
Nolan Arenado will lead off here in the eighth and time is running out on team USA
Yu Darvish will now come out for Japan to try and shut down the USA.
Masataka Yoshida will now come to the plate and will roll one to short, directly into the shift. Arenado fields it and flips to Turner for one, and the throw to first ends the inning. 5-6-3 double play.
Shohei Ohtani will come to the plate now and the count runs full for him before he whacks a stinger to a diving Trea Turner. He beats the throw out to first. Another bang-bang play.
The USA will challenge this one again. It is even closer than the previous challenge. I don't think that there is enough to overturn it.
The umpires review and decide that he was indeed safe. The play stands.
Kondoh fights off fastball after fastball before popping one high in the air on the left side. Arenado gets under it and puts it away for out number one.
Jeff McNeil will remain in the game, straight swap for Anderson at second base. Kensuke Kondoh will lead off for Japan.
David Bednar will now take the mound for team USA.
Paul Goldschmidt now at the plate and hits a sharp grounder to short. Ganda flips to second for one, the throw to first to complete the double play! 6-4-3 to get out of a really tight spot.
Mike Trout comes up with a runner in scoring position and the first pitch looks like it hit him. No, it hit the bat for strike one. The second pitch is lifted out to right and Kondoh charges it to make the catch for out number one.
Betts rips one hard, just past Genda and into left for a single. McNeil advances to second on the play.
Mookie Betts will now come to the plate representing the tying run here.
McNeil draws the four-pitch walk to lead off.
Jeff McNeil will lead off for the USA, pinch hitting for Tim Anderson.
Despite having Yu Darvish up and working in the bullpen, Japanese manager Hideki Kuriyama will call on Taisei Ota to take over on the mound.
Lars Nootbaar now comes to the plate with bases loaded and two outs. He gets a high slider and gives it a ride to right field. Mooke Betts gets under it and takes the catch to end the inning. The USA dodge a bullet there!
Yuhei Nakamura will come to the plate with runners now on first and second and two outs. Adam is struggling to find the strike zone and the count runs to 3-1 again. And once again he loses the hitter on a ball four in the dirt. Jason Adam has now walked the bases full.
Genda lays off all of the fast stuff, with that broken pinky finger he can't afford to chase it. He works the count to 3-1 and draws the walk.
Sosuke Genda stands in now with a runner on first and two outs. Yamada takes off on the first pitch and Realmuto's throw not in time. He steals second.
Tetsuto Yamada heads to the box now and works the count full. The payoff pitch is in the dirt for ball four.
Kazuma Okamoto will now come to the dish for Japan and swings through a fanstastic slider for strike three. Adam is on fire!
Munetaka Murakami will lead off for Japan and he fouls one back into the catcher's mitt for strike three. One down.
The USA will call on Jason Adam to take over from Kyle Freeland on the mound.
Cedric Mullins stands in now and cuts at a low fastball for strike three. He tries to pull it back, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway since that pitch was a beauty, right on the bottom edge of the zone.
JT Realmuto comes up now and rips a shot on the ground to third. Murakami fields it cleanly and makes the long throw to first for the second out.
Trea Turner will lead off for the USA in the sixth and pops one off the end of the bat to left. Yoshida gets under it and puts it away for out number one.
Hiromi Itoh will now get the call to replace Hiroto Takahashi on the mound for Japan.
Masataka Yoshida chops one right back to the mound. Freeland takes it, makes the throw to first to end the inning.
Shohei Ohtani comes to the plate now and rips one past Goldschmidt at first, but the USA is in the shift and Tim Anderson gets to it, making the throw back to first for the out. Kondoh advances to second on the play.
Kensuke Kondoh stands in now and draws the walk on five pitches.
Lars Nootbaar will lead off for Japan here in the fifth. He lifts a high pop up into right field for Mookie Betts. One down
Kyle Schwarber stands in and lifts a fastball out to center field. He got under it and it is way too high. Lars Nootbaar has no trouble getting under it to end the inning.
Nolan Arenado will stand in with a runner on first and two outs. He gets a low splitter and rips it into left for a two-out single. Betts will slam on the brakes at second.
Paul Goldschmidt comes up to the box now and watches a called strike three on a 97mph fastball that ran the bottom rail of the zone. Completely frozen on the pitch.
Mike Trout comes up to the plate now and the count runs full before chasing a splitter that just fell right off the table! Swinging strike three. That pitch was pure cheese!
Betts jumps on the first pitch, hitting it sharply to third. The throw to first gets him, but it is bang-bang. USA challenges the call and the umpires reverse the decision on review.
Mookie is on first with a leadoff infield single.
Mookie Betts will lead off for the USA to start the fifth, down by two.
Hiroto Takahashi will now take the mound for Japan.
Yuhei Nakamura comes up and slaps a grounder to third for Nolan Arenado. The long throw across the diamond gets him to end the inning but Japan have added to their total and lead now 3-1
Sosuke Genda works a full count before swinging through strike three for the second out.
Tetsuto Yamada goes after the first pitch and lifts it to right, but it is an easy play for Mookie Betts. One away.
Kazuma Okamoto will lead off for Japan and he goes after a high slider, it is hit to left center field. It is deep, back to the wall and it is gone! Another solo shot for Japan. They extend their lead to 3-1.
Tim Anderson now at the plate and he jumps on the second pitch for a deep fly ball to right center field. There is plenty of park there for Kensuke Kondoh to get to it though and he takes the catch to end the inning.
Cedric Mullins now stand in and works a deep count before lifting one into left center field. Masataka Yoshida chases it down and puts it away for out number two.
J.T. Realmuto leads off for the USA and gets in a hole quickly before lines out to shortstop Sosuke Genda.
Munetaka Murakami jumps on the first pitch and chops it to second. Tim Anderson goes to second for one, back to first for the second and they turn the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Masataka Yoshida draws a walk on four straight pitches.
Ohtani falls behind in the count and then works his way back into it, working it full before watching strike three cross the plate. Completely jelly-legged.
Shohei Ohtani will lead off for Japan and he will face the new pitcher.
Kyle Freeland will now come onto the mound for the USA, with Aaron Loup not warming up sufficiently to throw a full outing.
Turner goes down swinging on a splitter that just falls off the table. Whew! Japan can breathe a sigh of relief now! That was one of the most dangerous hitters in the tournament.
Trea Turner is now at the plate, and he is definitely the worst possible batter for Japan right now with men on first and second. His bat has been so hot, so very very hot.
Kyle Schwarber now at the plate with two down and a man on first. Togo comes after him with the fastballs and runs the count full. The payoff pitch misses low and Schwarber draws the walk.
Uh oh, that is trouble.
Nolan Arenado stands in and Togo pitches around him, losing him on five pitches for a two-out walk.
Paul Goldschmidt now comes to the dish and pops one up a mile high into left field. Masataka Yoshida has to run a very long way, but the ball is so high that he makes it to the foul line and puts the ball away for the second out.
Mike Trout will lead off for the USA and Togo sets him up and gets him swinging at a funky splitter for strike three.
Japan will now dip into the bullpen and call on Shosei Togo to replace Shota Imanaga on the mound.
Kondoh pops a high fly ball to center field. Mike Trout camps out under it and puts it away to end the threat. But Japan have jumped out front 2-1
Kensuke Kondoh now at the plate with Genda at third and Nakamura at second, now with two outs.
Nootbaar yanks on to first, broken bat, slow roller. Goldschmidt flips it to Loup who was covering and they get the out, beating Nootbaar by half a step. But the runners advance and Okamoto scores on the play. 2-1 Japan
Nootbaar is now at the plate and this is perhaps the best opportunity that Japan are likely to get tonight.
It is too dangerous not to make the change and Mark DeRosa strides out to the mound to take the ball off of Merrill Kelly. He will hand it over to Aaron Loup to see if he can get the USA out of this mess.
This is a dangerous moment for team USA. The bases loaded with only one out and Lars Nootbaar at the dish.
Nakamura runs the count full before taking a ball four outside to load the bases.
Yuhei Nakamura now comes to the plate with two men on and one out. The USA's bullpen now showing signs of life.
Sosuke Genda comes to the plate and pokes a high fastball into left field for a single. Okamoto advances to second on the play.
Tetsuto Yamata now stands in and works the count full. The payoff is driven to right field. Mookie Betts gets under it and puts it away for out number one.
Kazuma Okamoto comes to the plate and slaps a line drive to right field, it falls in for a single.
Munetaka Murakami leads off for Japan and jumps on the first pitch. He crushes it, there is no doubt about this one! It is gone a very long way. The sleeping dragon is well and truly awake! Japan strike back and level the game.
Mookie Betts attacks the first ball and lifts one out to left for Masataka Yoshida to put away and retire the side. The USA jump out on top courtesy of their newest power hitter Trea Turner.
Tim Anderson jumps on the first pitch and pushes a roller up the middle to center field. Realmuto advances to second on the play.
Cedric Mullins now comes up with a runner on first and one out. Imanaga goes straight at him and gets him on a called strike three on a beautiful fastball that painted the edge of the plate. Two down.
JT Realmuto now comes to the plate and works the count full. The payoff pitch is ripped through the hole at third for a single to left.
Trea Turner now stands in and smashes a bomb to left field! He has done it again! The fifth home run of the tournament for America's Short Stop!
He is becoming Mr Automatic in this competition. The USA goes up 1-0.
Schwarber reaches out for a low pitch and flies it out to left, but it is no trouble for Kondoh. One out
Kyle Schwarber leads off for the USA here in the second.
Masataka Yoshida will come to the plate now and Kelly comes after him. He has to fight off four great fastballs, fouling them back, before he gets rung up on a called strike three to end the inning.
Shohei Ohtani now comes up and draws the walk. They won't pitch to him, and you can't blame them for that.
Kensuke Kondoh now stands in and he hits a sharp grounder to short. Trea Turner gathers it in and makes the throw for out number two.
Nootbaar puts the first pitch in play, a high fly ball to shallow left field for Cedric Mullins. One away.
Merrill Kelly is on the mound for the USA and he will go to work against Lars Nootbaar leading off for Japan.
Nolan Arenado slaps the first pitch directly to first base. Kazuma Okamoto fields it and takes it to the bag for the third out.
Paul Goldschmidt stands in and is aggressive, swinging through three straight pitches for a strikeout.
Mike Trout comes to the plate and rips a middle-middle curve into shallow right. It falls in between the second baseman and Kondoh who was playing deep. Trout was hustling from the word go and the hit was so high that he makes it into second with a double!
Betts jumps on the second pitch and hits a long fly ball to right center field. Kondoh catches up to it and pulls it in for out number one.
Shota Imanaga is on the mound for Japan and Mookie Betts will be leading off for the USA. Here comes the first pitch and it is a sinker for a strike and the 2023 WBC final is under way!
A historic night
If the USA wins, they will join Japan as the only teams to have won twice and to have repeated.
If Japan wins, they will join the Dominican Republic as the only teams with an undefeated run in the WBC. Plus, they will become the only team to have ever won the title three times.
loanDepot Park has an official capacity of 37,442 and right now it looks like every one of those seats is occupied.
The flags of all participating nations in the WBC are extended around the outfield warning track, while the US flag and the Japanese flag have pride of place in left and right center.
The teams take the field
Both teams file out to a full house. The team captains are carrying the national flags, with Mike Trout holding the stars and stripes, and Shohei Ohtani holding the rising sun.
The teams lineup on the baselines for the national anthems and the crowd is on its feet.
Lars Nootbaar CF
Kensuke Kondoh RF
Shohei Ohtani DH
Masataka Yoshida LF
Munetaka Murakami 3B
Kazuma Okamoto 1B
Tetsuto Yamada 2B
Sosuke Genda SS
Yuhei Nakamura C
Mookie Betts RF
Mike Trout CF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Kyle Schwarber DH
Trea Turner SS
JT Realmuto C
Cedric Mullins LF
Tim Anderson 2B
“On the ultimate stage, we’re facing the toughest opponents.”
“On the ultimate stage, we’re facing the toughest opponents.” says Shohei Ohtani. “Naturally, it’s going to be tense, but I want everyone to give their all with a strong desire to win whatever it takes.”
Keys to the game for Japan
Japan came into the World Baseball Classic as perhaps the most complete team in the competition. But tonight they are in the fight of their life. The USA is one of the best ever assembled on paper and there are signs that they may be finally shaking of their torpor.
Japan will need Shōta Imanaga to keep the score to a minimum; it may be too much to hope for him to shut the USA down. Two or three scoreless innings however, would give that Japanese bullpen a fighting chance.
The biggest key to the game may be Munetaka Murakami. While the Japanese have a powerful lineup behind Nootbaar, Ohtani, and Yoshida, the element that they have lacked is a true breakout performance from the NPB's triple crown winner. His walkoff double got them here, but he had gone 0 for 4 prior to that with three strikeouts. Japan will need him to better that tonight.
Japan stranded ten baserunners against Mexico. They can not afford to do that against the USA. If they want to win this game, they will need to capitalize on all of their scoring opportunities.
Keys to the game for USA
The old saying is that offense puts runs on the board but defense wins games. And never was a truer word spoken.
The key to the game for the USA will be the bullpen. Their bats are potent, everyone knows that. The USA can score in almost any situation. The problem is that Japan can too. So you need a deal-breaker. Tonight, that will be the bullpen.
The USA are coming into this game off a rest day, which is ideal. Devin Williams, David Bednar, Ryan Pressly, Adam Ottavino, Jason Adam, and Kendall Graveman should all be ready to take over in the middle innings. They will still need a quality start out of Kelly, but the relief is at the best condition that can be expected.
On the other side of the coin, the USA's offense is perhaps most effective against left-handed pitchers, and in order to fully take advantage tonight, they will need to jump on Shōta Imanaga early.
If you would like to follow along in Spanish, head over to our colleagues at AS USA LATINO. They will bring you all of the action EN ESPAÑOL.
Team USA will hand the ball over to Diamondbacks’ pitcher Merrill Kelly for the World Baseball Classic championship happening tonight, Tuesday, March 21st.
Diario AS USA's own Reem Abdalazem takes a look at the starter!
It is honestly a sound game plan by Japan. Although Yu Darvish is an outstanding starter, he is also a known entity to team USA hitters. And while there are certain margins for exception, in general you are better off giving a team like the USA a pitcher that they have never seen before.
Imanaga may not have the overpowering speed of Roki Sasaki, but he has excellent control and a mid-90s fastball. Mix in that low-70s curve (yes, low-70s!) and he could keep the USA off balance for a couple of innings.
Team USA will start Arizona Diamonbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly. With the fastball doing the heavy lifting in his arsenal, Kelly can also call on a change up, a cutter, and will occasionally throw in a curve to the mix. Kelly finished last season with a 3.37 ERA and 177 strikeouts over 200.1 innings pitched for Arizona.
While there was a rumor that Japan would start Yu Darvish, they have opted to tap lefty Shōta Imanaga, who plays for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan’s NPB league. Like his counterpart, Imanaga is primarily a fastball pitcher, and he will mix in a cutter, splitter, slider, change up, and a big looping curve. He finished last season in Japan with a 2.26 ERA and 132 strikeouts over 143.2 innings pitched.
Fans of Team USA can rest a little easier as they prepare for the final against Japan, with news confirming that one of their stars is good to go ahead of the big game.
Our own Paul Rudder breaks it down for you!
Samurai Japan is one of the most successful nations in the four previous editions of the World Baseball Classic, and the only country to have made it to the semi final in every edition.
Welcome to the live commentary coverage of the USA vs Japan WBC final game here with Diario AS USA.
It all comes down to this. The 2023 World Baseball Classic has presented us with some amazing baseball from around the world, but in the end, the two teams left standing are the two who were pipped to be here at the outset.
Team USA will defend their title against Samurai Japan.
Through the group stage, Japan was dominant, as everyone expected. They flicked off Korea, Australia, and the Czech Republic with a minimum of effort, before making short shrift of Italy in the quarterfinal.
Crossing the Pacific, they were presented with an altogether stiffer prospect in Mexico, and while they eventually came through that test, it was not unscathed. They needed all nine innings and a timely hit from NPB triple crown winner Munetaka Murakami to slip past the Mexicans.
Most certainly, the long delay between games necessitated by their acclimating to the 13-hour time difference affected Japan, but it is perhaps worrying that they have been so dominant in the early stages and less so as they enter the final.
Team USA has a WBC experience that is the polar opposite of Japan’s. Through the group stage, the USA seemed disjointed, uneven, perhaps even, dare I say it, over-hyped. Although they bombarded Canada, they seemed lackluster against Great Britain, a team that they should have wiped the floor with, and struggled against Colombia, and even were humiliated and nearly subjected to the mercy rule by Mexico.
And then all of a sudden, everything seemed to click. They were outstanding against Venezuela in the quarterfinals and showed their full promise against Cuba in the semis.
Despite following different trajectories to get here, both teams are entering this game in a similar state. Nolan Arendado had an injury scare in the semifinal game against Cuba, when he was hit by a pitch on his left knuckle, but will be available for team USA today. Likewise, Japan has Sosuke Genda playing with a broken right pinky finger.
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