Japan holds Team USA at bay to claim third World Baseball Classic championship

Japan celebrated its first WBC title since 2009, remaining the only nation to win multiple WBC championships in the event’s history.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Championship-Japan vs USA
Japan first baseman Kazuma Okamoto (25) celebrates his home run against Team USA in the fourth inning Tuesday in the World Baseball Classic championship game in Miami. Japan won 3-2.
Rhona Wise / USA Today Sports

MIAMI — Team USA manager Mark DeRosa felt confident in his team’s lineup no matter who would throw for Japan on Tuesday night.

“It’s crazy deep and crazy good,” DeRosa said.

It turns out so was Japan’s pitching staff.

Japan used seven pitchers, starting with Shota Imanaga and finishing with All-Stars Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani, to hold the potent U.S. lineup in check enough to secure a 3-2 victory in the World Baseball Classic championship game at Miami’s loanDepot park before a crowd of 36,098.

In the end it came down to the Los Angeles Angels teammates as Ohtani came in to pitch the ninth and would face Mike Trout with two outs and the bases clear after the former induced Mookie Betts to ground into a double play.


After a six-pitch battle, Ohtani, who was named tournament MVP, struck out Trout when he swung and missed at an 87-mph sweeper to end the game and send the rest of Japan’s players racing toward the mound to celebrate.

Japan celebrated its first WBC title since 2009 and won its third overall, remaining the only nation to win multiple WBC championships in the event’s history.

Japan won all seven of its games, completing only the second unbeaten championship run in the history of the WBC and joining the Dominican Republic in 2013.

The United States, which went 5-2 in the tournament, came up a win short of repeating as WBC champions after its victory in 2017.

Team USA delivered a solid collective pitching performance itself, holding Japan to its lowest run total in a game in this year’s tournament. Japan was averaging 8.8 runs scored per game entering the final and had only allowed 16 runs with five of those coming in the semifinal against Mexico.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Championship-Japan vs USA
Team USA shortstop Trea Turner hits a home run during the second inning Tuesday against Japan in the World Baseball Classic championship in Miami.
Sam Navarro / USA Today Sports

In the second inning, and for the third consecutive game, the U.S. got some more big-game magic from its hottest hitter.

Trea Turner put the U.S. ahead 1-0 in the second inning when he crushed his fifth home run of the tournament 407 feet into the left field seats.

But Japan answered with two runs in the bottom half of that inning, starting with a solo home run from Munetaka Murakami. Kazuma Okamoto, who singled and came around to score on an RBI groundout by Lars Nootbaar, then homered in the fourth to push Japan’s lead to 3-1.


The U.S. left two runners on base in the third and fifth innings. Another promising chance evaporated quickly in the seventh. Jeff McNeil led off that inning with a walk and Betts followed with a single. But Trout flew out to right and Paul Goldschmidt grounded into an inning-ending double play.

In the eighth, after fouling off six pitches, Kyle Schwarber cracked Japan’s pitching armor with a towering, 436-foot solo home run to right center field with one out off Darvish. Turner followed with a single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But Darvish induced a pop up from J.T. Realmuto and got Cedric Mullins to fly out to center.


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