The 2023 World Baseball Classic turned into one of the most exciting baseball events in recent years. With Team USA captained by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani anchoring the Japanese baseball team, everyone was hoping to see a match-up between the two Angels teammates. The seeding of the tournament put Japan and the United States in opposite pools. The only way baseball fans could see the two best players in baseball face one another was for both teams to make it to the championship game. The United States needed a come from behind victory against Venezuela in the quarterfinals, and Japan needed a 9th inning comeback in the semifinals against Mexico to make the dream a reality.
Before the game Ohtani had made it clear that he would not be the starting pitcher for Japan but would serve as DH and would be available if needed as a relief pitcher. The Japanese pitching held off the US lineup, made up entirely of Major League players. Going into the 9th inning Japan maintained a 3-2 lead with Jeff McNeil, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout due up. Ohtani had batted in the 8th, leaving time and space in the batting order for him to warm up and pitch the 9th inning.
The very match up everyone wanted to see was not only going to happen, it had the potential of being the final out of the game. FINALLY, King Kong would face off against Godzilla. See the full at bat here.
Throwing multiple fastballs at or above 100 mph, Ohtani later expressed his need to only show Trout his best. The count eventually reached 3 balls and 2 strikes. With the 6th pitch of the sequence Ohtani abandoned his fastball and threw a 89 mph slider with as much as 17 inches of right-to-left break. Trout swung at all three strikes and was never able to touch anything Shohei threw. With the strikeout Japan emerged victorious.
The video breakdown by Jomboy Media provides an excellent recap of each pitch.
Trout later said that “This was probably the funnest 10 days I’ve ever had.” Of his duel with Ohtani, he said “He won Round 1. Being a Starter coming out of the pen. . . That’s Sho-Time.” Both players seemed eager to return to for the 2026 World Baseball Classic.