Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani have been teammates with the Los Angeles Angels since 2018. On Tuesday, they faced off in a one-run game in the final of the World Baseball Classic.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Ohtani faced Trout who was up to bat to keep the United States’ hopes alive as repeating WBC champs.
Ohtani struck out Trout to close out the game, giving Japan a 3-2 victory and its first World Baseball Classic title since 2009.
Ohtani, who earned the save as a pitcher, but played just as an important role as a hitter throughout the tournament, was named the Most Valuable Player. He carried a .435 batting average with eight RBIs as a hitter. He had a 1.86 earned run average, striking out 11 batters as a pitcher.
It was an important moment of validation for the tournament, which had its fifth iteration in 2023 after being delayed two years because of the pandemic. Earlier tournaments struggled to attract MVP-caliber players.
But Ohtani has long embraced participating in the World Baseball Classic.
"Of course to me, as I said earlier, I've seen Japan winning, and I just wanted to be part of it," he said. "I really appreciate that I was able to have the great experience. As I say, the next generation, the kids who are playing baseball, I was hoping that those people would like to play baseball. That would make me happy."
While Team USA manager Mark DeRosa was disappointed the Americans fell short, he was struck by the finish.
"I was hoping it would end a little bit different with Mike popping one," he said. "But the baseball world won tonight. Although those guys are disappointed in there, I couldn't be prouder of 'em, the way they came together as a team."
"I mean, if you were going to write a script, I was hoping it was going to go our way with Mikey popping one against Ohtani," he added. "But like I said, I mean, the baseball world, this thing is real, the WBC's real. The whole world got to see Ohtani come in, big spot, battling. It's kind of how it was kind of scripted. I just wish it would have went different."
Baseball fans won’t have to wait as long for the next version of the World Baseball Classic. It will come in 2026.