Team USA’s bid for consecutive World Baseball Classic tournament championships came up short on Tuesday night, falling to Japan 3–2 at loanDepot Park in Miami.
Four of the five runs came on solo home runs by Team USA’s Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber and Japan’s Munetaka Murakami and Kumiko Okamoto.
Trea Turner opened the scoring in the top of the second inning, crushing a 2–1 pitch from Shota Imanaga. The dynamic shortstop tied the WBC tournament home run record previously set by South Korea’s Lee Seung-yuop’s mark set in the inaugural tournament in 2006. Turner finished with the most home runs (5) as well as the most RBIs (10) of any player in the tournament.
Merrill Kelly, who started on the bump for Team USA, struggled allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks in just 1 ⅓ innings of work. The club’s bullpen was superb the rest of the way allowing just one run and two hits after Kelly’s departure.
Japan’s staff, which consisted of efforts from seven pitchers, shut down Team USA’s potent lineup by allowing just two runs while striking out eight. The heart of Team USA’s batting order consisting of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado went a combined 2-for-12.
Trout and Goldschmidt struck out a combined five times, but none of the at-bats were bigger than when two of the best baseball players in the game, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, faced off in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs in the inning, Ohtani struck out Trout on a nasty slider ending any hopes of a Team USA comeback.
The star two-way talent had never recorded a save in either his MLB or NPB career prior to striking out his Angels teammate on the final pitch of the game.
For his efforts, Ohtani earned MVP honors for the tournament.