The 2023 World Baseball Classic is in the books and it had a storybook ending: Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout, his teammate with the Los Angeles Angels, to close out Japan's championship game win Tuesday. Ohtani came out of the bullpen to get the final three outs of the 3-2 win. MLB could not have scripted a better finish.
Japan won its third ever WBC title and thanks in part to the championship game save, Ohtani was named the World Baseball Classic MVP. He hit .435/.606/.739 with four doubles, a home run, and 10 walks in the tournament while also pitching to a 1.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. Ohtani was, truly, the best hitter and pitcher in the WBC. He is astonishing.
In the semifinals against Mexico on Monday, Ohtani opened the ninth inning with a double to spur the game-tying rally. He was the star of the ninth inning in Japan's final two games, once as a hitter and once as a pitcher.
This was Ohtani's first WBC -- he missed the 2017 tournament with an ankle injury -- and he joins Daisuke Matsuzaka (2006, 2009), Robinson Canó (2013), and Marcus Stroman (2017) as WBC MVPs. Ohtani will be a free agent after the 2023 season, yet the risk and potential payday was not enough to keep him away from representing his country.
Japan also won the 2006 and 2009 WBCs. They are the second team to go undefeated, joining the 2013 Dominican Republic squad.