(Miami) Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout had dreamed of this moment, like millions of fans across Japan and the United States: the two biggest stars on the planet, longtime teammates, clashing at 60 feet , six inches, baseball’s world title at stake.
At the plate, he finished the tournament with a batting average of.435, a home run, four doubles, eight RBIs, and 10 walks. On the pitching side, he posted a 2-0 record, recorded a save, had an earned run average of 1.86, and collected 11 strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings.
“I think all baseball fans wanted to see this. I’ve been answering questions about it for a month and a half,” said Trout, Ohtani’s teammate on the Los Angeles Angels since 2018.
“Did you think it was going to end any other way?”
Watching the eighth and ninth innings unfold, Japanese first baseman Kazuma Okamoto couldn’t believe it.
“I thought it was like a Manga,” he said through an interpreter, referring to a Japanese comic book.
Mark DeRosa, the manager of the American team, enjoyed the duel, except for the ending.
“I would have just liked to see Mike hit a 500-foot home run,” he admitted.
Ohtani had delivered an encouraging speech before the game Ohtani had delivered an encouraging speech before the game in baseball in japan locker room.
“Let’s stop admiring them,” he said, according to the translation by the Los Angeles Times from the video posted on the “Samurai Japan” website.
If you admire them, you can’t surpass them. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top. For one day, let’s forget our admiration for them and only think about winning.
A first in 10 years
Japan joined the Dominican Republic in 2013 as the only undefeated champion of the national baseball tournament.
The Japanese team won all seven games and dominated their opponents with a cumulative score of 56-18. Japan reached the final for the first time since their triumphs in the first two editions of the tournament in 2006 and 2009.
No other nation has won the title more than once.
Trea Turner gave the United States the lead in the second inning against Shota Imanaga (1-0) with his fifth home run of the tournament, matching the competition record set by South Korea’s Seung Yuop Lee in 2006.
Later in the second inning, Japan loaded the bases, and Lars Nootbaar, the first non-Japanese player to wear the “Samurai Warriors” uniform, broke the tie by driving in a run with a ground ball to the infield.
Okamoto extended Japan’s lead in the fourth inning with a solo home run to left-center field off Kyle Freeland. Kyle Schwarzer brought the margin to just one run with a home run against Yu Darvish in the eighth.
Ohtani was Japan’s designated hitter and made his way to the bullpen for the first time, preparing for the sixth inning.
In the seventh, he was ruled safe at first base on a ground ball to the infield before returning to the bullpen to warm up again, getting ready for his third appearance of the tournament on the mound in the ninth inning.
Ohtani first walked Jeff McNeil, the reigning National League batting champion, and then induced star player Mookie Betts into a double play.
That’s when Trout, the captain of the United States team, a 10-time All-Star player, and a three-time American League Most Valuable Player, stepped up.
“I saw him take a deep breath to control his emotions,” DeRosa recounted.
“I can’t even imagine being in that moment—the two best players on the planet, teammates, facing each other right here.”
Ohtani started the duel with a low slider, and then Trout swung and missed at a 100 mph fastball. Another fastball stayed outside, and Trout then missed a 99.8 mph pitch in the plate’s heart.
Ohtani followed with a 101.6 mph pitch, his fastest of the evening, which missed the target low and outside.
Ohtani stepped off the mound and blew into his right hand. He returned with a slider that Trout swung and missed, recording his 12th strikeout of the tournament and finishing with a.296 average, a home run, and seven RBIs.
Ohtani raised both arms and threw his glove, then his cap, as his teammates surrounded him.
This was his second career save, the first since a postseason game in 2016 in the Pacific League.
“What he does in this sport is what probably 90% of the guys in this clubhouse have done in minor baseball Japan league or youth tournaments, and he’s able to do it on the biggest stages,” DeRosa said about Ohtani.
“He’s a rare phenomenon in this sport. I think other Japanese baseball Japanese players will try it, but I don’t think they’ll do it at his level.