Japan pitcher Shohei Ohtani celebrates after defeating the United States at the World Baseball Classic final game Tuesday in Miami. Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

MIAMI — Shohei Ohtani emerged from the bullpen and fanned Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout for the final out in a matchup the whole baseball world wanted to see, leading Japan over the defending champion United States 3-2 Tuesday night for its first World Baseball Classic title since 2009.

Ohtani, the two-way star who has captivated fans across two continents, was voted MVP of the WBC and clutched the award against his chest.

Ohtani beat out an infield single in the seventh inning as a designated hitter before walking down the left-field line to Japan’s bullpen to warm up for his third mound appearance of the tournament.

Flashing his 100 mph heat, Ohtani walked big league batting champion Jeff McNeil to begin the ninth before getting Mookie Betts to ground into a double play.

Trout, the U.S. captain and a three-time MVP, then ended the game by striking out on a full-count breaking ball. Ohtani’s only other save was in a Japan postseason playoff game in 2016.

Ohtani batted .435 with one homer, four doubles, eight RBI and 10 walks as Japan joined the Dominican Republic in 2013 to become the only unbeaten champions of baseball’s premier national team tournament. Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP was 2-0 with a save and a 1.86 ERA on the mound, striking out 11 in 9 2/3 innings.


Japan went 7-0 and outscored opponents 56-18, reaching the final for the first time since winning the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009. No other nation has won the title more than once.

Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto homered as Japan built a 3-2 lead.

Trea Turner put the U.S. ahead in the second with his record-tying fifth home run of the tournament and Kyle Schwarber pulled the Americans within a run when he went deep in the eighth off Yu Darvish.

It was the second straight major title for the Japanese, who beat the U.S. 2-0 in Yokohama for the 2021 Olympic gold medal. Japan used top players in that tournament and the U.S. sent released major leaguers and top prospects.

Turner put the U.S. ahead in the second inning with a drive to left against Shota Imanaga (1-0), tying South Korea’s Seung Yuop Lee in 2006 for the most in a WBC. That lit up a sellout crowd of 36,098 – fans were given wristbands with colored lights that flickered.

Murakami, at 23 already a two-time Central League MVP, tied the score on the first pitch of the bottom half when Merrill Kelly (0-1) elevated a fastball. Murakami drove it at 115.1 mph into the right-field upper deck, 432 feet away.


Murakami’s game-ending double lifted Japan over Mexico 6-5 in Monday night’s semifinal and his third-inning homer off Nick Martinez put Japan ahead in the 2021 gold medal game.

Japan loaded the bases in the second on singles by Okamoto and Sosuke Genda, and a walk to Yuhei Nakamura. Lars Nootbaar, the first non-Japanese-born player to appear for the Samurai Warriors, followed with a run-scoring groundout off Aaron Loup for a 2-1 lead.

Okamoto boosted the lead in the fourth when he sent a flat slider from Kyle Freeland over the wall in left-center.

Japan was outhit 9-5 as Imanaga combined with six relievers to hold the U.S. to 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The 29-year-old left-hander and Shosei Togo pitched two innings each, Hiroto Takahashi, Hiromi Itoh and Taisei Ota got three outs each, with Ota escaping two-on, no-outs trouble by retiring Trout on a flyout and getting Paul Goldschmidt to ground into a double play.

THE WBC  will return for its sixth edition in March 2026, with organizers concluding spring training remains a better time than after the World Series or in the middle of the major league season.

Speaking before Tuesday night’s final between the United States and Japan, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB owners and general managers have to be persuaded to make more star pitchers available to national teams.


Since its launch in 2006, the WBC has been played in March, ahead of club opening day in MLB, Japan and South Korea.

“We have talked about timing until your head hurts,” Manfred said. “There’s just no perfect time. You can’t really do it after the playoffs because so many players have been down. We have talked about something in the middle of the season. I think on balance, although it’s not perfect, this is probably the right place for it.”

Many MLB teams blocked pitchers from participating, wanting them to concentrate on preparing for the season’s start.

“From a competitive perspective, I think the most important thing is we’re going to need to continue to work, particularly with our clubs, about pitching,” Manfred said. “Obviously, it’s great the guys we’ve had, but I think that I’d like to see pitching staffs that are of the same quality as our position players.”

“Pitching in a high-leverage situation like these are, that actually helps players develop, No. 1,” he added. “No. 2, that we staff the teams in a way that pitchers are used appropriately and the staffs of WBC communicate with the clubs about what’s going on with the individual players and make good judgments.”

U.S. Manager Mark DeRosa said he told clubs that he would never have a pitcher warm up twice in the bullpen on the same day. Once a pitcher warms up, he had to enter the game then or not be used.


Two All-Stars players got hurt during the WBC. Mets closer Edwin Díaz injured a knee during a postgame celebration with Puerto Rico last week and had season-ending surgery. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve broke his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch and needs an operation that will keep him sidelined for a period still to be announced.

“I think maybe the best testimony to it is how the players, after the unfortunate injury that Díaz had, how the players came out and spoke in support of the tournament,” Manfred said. “It’s an indication that they really, really care about the event.”

He said the WBC will continue to take on the insurance of players participating with their national teams.

“You can’t play this event without insuring the players,” he said. “It’s enough that the teams take the risk that somebody is going to be down, but to then say, oh, by the way, you get to pay for it, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Manfred is open to returning to Puerto Rico or possibly playing in the Dominican Republic. Every WBC edition has includes games in Japan. Puerto Rico hosted in 2006, ’09 and 13, Mexico in ‘2009 and ’17, Taiwan 2013 and this year and South Korea in 2017.

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