A classic final boss battle: Breaking down Shohei Ohtani's strikeout of Mike Trout to conclude WBC
The way the World Baseball Classic ended Tuesday night could've come straight from a storybook ... or perhaps a video game.
Team USA and Japan had conquered all challengers to reach the climatic showdown.
The final battle, in the ninth inning, featured the game's greatest hitter – Mike Trout – in the batter's box against the greatest all-around player – Shohei Ohtani – on the mound. Japan led by one, and the U.S. was down to its last out.
Perhaps Trout summed it up best: "Did you think that it was going to end any other way?"
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By now, we all know the result Japan beat Team USA 3-2. But it's still worth revisiting as a part of baseball history.
SHOHEI OHTANI STRIKES OUT MIKE TROUT TO WIN THE #WORLDBASEBALLCLASSIC! pic.twitter.com/F7vUtIiRR1
— MLB (@MLB) March 22, 2023
Trout-Ohtani showdown a moment in the making
With the U.S. and Japan seemingly on a collision course in the tournament final, speculation began to build about whether the two best players in the game might meet with the title on the line.
After Japan rallied to defeat Mexico in its semifinal game, Ohtani was asked about pitching in the final ... and possibly facing his Angels teammate.
“Mentally, I will be prepared to," Ohtani said, "but obviously, I’ll be DHing, so it’s going to be hard to find that time to get hot in the bullpen."
Even though it took a couple trips from the bullpen to the dugout between at-bats, Ohtani was able to complete his warmup in time to enter the game in the top of the ninth.
Finally, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani had something to play for
Adding to the drama was the fact that despite being almost certainly the best player in the majors for over a decade, Trout has only appeared in one postseason series with the Angels. And they didn't win a single game.
Pairing the three-time AL MVP with Ohtani, the 2021 MVP, would seem to provide the foundation for a formidable playoff contender. But in the five seasons the two superstars have played together, the Angels have finished higher than fourth place in their division only once – last season, when they finished third.
But here they were, Trout and Ohtani, on opposite sides, facing each other in perhaps the most pressure-packed game of their careers, playing for a championship.
Shohei Ohtani-Mike Trout pitch sequence
The WBC final fantasy had, at last, become reality.
Having never faced each other before, at least in a real game, Ohtani and Trout still knew each other's strengths and weaknesses from their five seasons together on the Angels.
Trout vs Ohtani lived up to the HYPE! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/Z8aZAjpDRg
— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) March 22, 2023
In watching the full at-bat, notice how Ohtani uses his blazing fastball to set Trout up and finish him off.
First pitch: Slider, 88 mph. Ball 1
Second pitch: Swinging, fastball, 100 mph. Strike 1.
Third pitch: Fastball, 99.8 mph. Ball 2.
Fourth pitch: Swinging, fastball, 99.8 mph. Strike 2.
Fifth pitch: Fastball, 101.6 mph. Ball 3.
As he's taken the count full, Ohtani has challenged Trout with four consecutive 100-mph fastballs.
Trout had to be looking for the heater once again on the 3-2 count, especially after swinging through two of them. Over 6,174 plate appearances in his MLB career, Trout has only swung and missed on three pitches in a single at-bat 24 times.
Sixth pitch: Sweeping slider, 87 mph. Strike 3.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout to end World Baseball Classic