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Elephant Rumblings: Japan defeats USA in WBC final

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World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

Few of us here are fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but it’s pretty hard to deny that the Shohei Ohtani versus Mike Trout finale to the World Baseball Classic was, well, classic.

With Japan holding just a one run lead in the ninth inning, the two best baseball players on the planet faced off with the game on the line. Trout struggled to make contact with Ohtani’s triple digit heaters, but managed to work a full count before striking out swinging on an 87mph slider, sealing a 3-2 victory for Japan.

Ohtani got the save and was named the MVP of the tournament. He excelled on offense and on the mound, slashing .435/.606/.739 and striking out 11 in 9⅔ innings with a 1.86 ERA.

Team USA jumped to an early lead in the second inning on this bases empty home run off Shota Imanaga by another 2023 WBC standout, shortstop Trea Turner, who hit a USA WBC career record five home runs in the tournament—four of them coming in a stretch of just seven at-bats.

Team USA’s lead was short-lived, as Japan came right back in the bottom of the second with a solo home run from third baseman Munetaka Murakami off Merrill Kelly. Then, with one out and the bases loaded, center fielder Lars Nootbar grounded out against Aaron Loup, but managed to bring home Kazuma Okamoto in the process to give Japan a 2-1 lead.

USA threatened to score more on several occasions and outhit Japan nine to five, but Turner and designated hitter Kyle Schwarber wound up providing all the offense for USA on home runs that came with no ducks on the pond. Japan held the lead from the bottom of the second through the rest of the game, foiling USA’s bid for a repeat WBC championship.

Japan will now celebrate their third WBC title after narrowly defeating USA yesterday and an exciting walk-off win against Mexico in the semifinals on Monday. This tournament was a tough act to follow, but I’m ready as ever for MLB Opening Day on March 30—just eight days away!

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