Everyone wanted to see Shohei Ohtani pitch against Mike Trout. Everyone wondered how that dream matchup would transpire.
Now they know.
Ohtani struck out his Los Angeles Angels teammate on six pitches in the final of the World Baseball Classic. As fate would have it, Trout’s swing-and-miss ended the game and the tournament, a 3-2 Japan win for the country’s third WBC title on Tuesday night at Miami’s LoanDepot Park.
“Whether I got him out or he got a hit off me, I wanted there to be no regrets,” Ohtani said through his long-time interpreter Ippei Mizuhara just after the game. “I wanted to make my best pitch.”
It was a 100-mph slider that tailed just outside the strike zone as the right-handed-hitting Trout flailed on a full count.
“The baseball world won tonight,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “I was hoping it would go our way with [Trout] popping one against Ohtani. But this [tournament] is real. The whole world got to see Ohtani come in in a big spot, battling. That’s kind of how it was scripted. I just wish it would have went differently.”
But that wasn’t to be.
Ohtani was named tournament MVP. He hit .435 and tallied a 1.86 ERA, winning two starts as a pitcher and notching one save—his first relief appearance since the end of the 2016 season when he played in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
He dominated the tournament just as he’s dominated Major League Baseball the past two seasons after recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, a procedure that curtailed his work on the mound during his first three seasons with the Angels.
He’s a leader as well. Before the game he gathered his Japanese teammates in the clubhouse to talk about what it would take to defeat Team USA, the WBC defending champions.
“Let’s stop admiring them,” he said. “If you admire them, you can’t surpass them. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top. For one day, let’s throw away our admiration for them and just think about winning.”
The fact is the baseball gods placed Trout and Ohtani on a collision course. Yu Darvish pitched the eighth for Japan, opening the inning against Nolan Arenado, the fourth hitter in the U.S. lineup. With Trout hitting in the second spot, a one-two-three inning would have left the world well short of the anticipated confrontation.
But Kyle Schwarber homered with one out to cut a 3-1 deficit in half. And Trea Turner, who hit his fifth homer of the tournament earlier in the game, singled to left. The next two hitters went out, ending the last U.S. threat.
There had been a question before the game about whether Ohtani would pitch. But that evaporated as Ohtani warmed up in the bullpen, and with Team USA’s No. 9 hitter leading off the ninth inning, it was assured he would face Trout.
Ohtani walked Bobby Witt to open the inning, but after Mookie Betts grounded into a double play, the big at-bat came into play.
Trout never touched a pitch, taking three of them for balls and swinging and missing at the other three.
Ohtani has now won a Japan league championship and a WBC championship, but he and Trout have had five losing seasons playing together with the Angels.
“I’ve played with [Trout] for several years,” Ohtani said. “I see him the most hitting next to him in the lineup. I’m probably the one who knows more than anyone how great he is not only as a baseball player, but as a person. So, I had to give him my best, my 120%, to get him out.”
The tournament was an incredible success, drawing a total of 1,267,202 fans, including an attendance of 36,098 to Tuesday night’s finale, which was expected to be the most-watched baseball game ever via television and streaming services worldwide.
Win or lose, Trout was so hyped up before the game he said he had already committed to playing in the sixth edition of the WBC when it’s staged in 2026. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has already confirmed there will be another WBC held that year.
“I get goose bumps just thinking about wearing the USA across my chest,” Trout, this year’s Team USA captain and centerfielder, said. “I already told them I’m doing the next one. If I’m DHing or playing left field, I’ll do whatever they want. I’m in. And I think that goes for all the guys, just talking to them. That’s how proud we are to be playing in this.”
Trout will be 34 by then with five more years to go on his current 12-year, $426.5 million contract with the Angels.
Ohtani’s a free agent at the end of the season and his richest days as a baseball player are yet to come. He’s 28 now and if he remains healthy, another trip to the WBC at 31 should be a given, with a possible rematch against Trout.
“This is a different experience representing your country, and facing guys representing their own countries,” Ohtani said. “There was a lot of intensity there. It was a great experience.”