Japan defeats USA to win 2023 World Baseball Classic

Tournament brings excitement, surprises, and controversy

Image by: Amna Rafiq
Some of MLB’s biggest stars represented their countries.

Japan defeated The United States 3-2 in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. 

Baseball fans everywhere got their dream matchup: Shohei Ohtani pitching to Mike Trout with the game on the line. With tensions high and the count full at 3-2, Ohtani struck out his Los Angeles Angels teammate on a devastating slider. 

Ohtani shouted with joy and threw his glove away before being mobbed by his Japanese compatriots. In their first trip to the WBC Championship game since 2009, Japan won their third ever gold medal at this budding international tournament. 

They came into the finals on the heels of a thrilling walk-off win against Mexico. Slugger Munetaka Murakami crushed a double to deep centre field in the bottom of the ninth, driving home Ohtani and pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto and sending the fans into hysterics. 

Japan—with their balanced lineup and a three-headed pitching monster of Ohtani, Yu Darvish, and Roki Sasaki—entered the tournament as the betting favourite. They dominated the competition in Pool B to the tune of a sparkling 4-0 record. 

Team USA and their lineup of MLB All-Stars fell short in defending their 2017 WBC despite the talent and experience on their roster. Future hall-of-famer Mike Trout led a team featuring reigning National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt as well as superstars Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, JT Realmuto, and Pete Alonso, among others. 

However, no player had a greater impact on Team USA reaching the WBC championship than shortstop Trea Turner. He hit a dramatic go-ahead grand slam in their 9-7 come-from-behind victory over Venezuela in the quarterfinal, then smacked two more home runs in their 14-2 rout of Cuba in the semifinals game.

While Japan playing USA in the finals was likely what most people predicted, the 2023 WBC will undoubtedly be remembered most for its unexpected turns.

The New York Mets’ worst nightmare came true when their star closer Edin Diaz tore his patellar tendon celebrating a win with team Puerto Rico. Fresh off signing a one-hundred-million-dollar extension with team, the injury is expected to end his season. 

Diaz’s injury broke hearts everywhere and ignited the debate as to whether meaningful baseball should be played in March. 

Keith Olbermann was one of several media personalities to blame the WBC for a freak injury that could have just as easily have happened in Spring Training or during the MLB season. His insensitive take, which called the tournament a “meaningless exhibition series” designed to sell jerseys, received substantial backlash. 

Turner—who called his dramatic grand slam the biggest home run of his baseball career—has been one of many advocates in favour of the tournament, which, pundits be damned, has continued to set attendance and global viewership records

Meanwhile, where on-the-diamond controversy is concerned, Team Dominican Republic was eliminated in the first round despite fielding a team of MLB stars. They somehow 

finished third in Pool D behind Venezuela and Puerto Rico with a 2-2 record. 

Team Canada also finished 2-2, good for third place in Pool C. No one expected them to advance ahead of Team USA or Mexico, but they competed nonetheless thanks to strong performances by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill and infield prospect Edouard Julien. 

Overall, the 2023 World Baseball Classic was an entertaining success despite the controversy surrounding Diaz’s injury. It further proved baseball is a global game, one that continues to grow and reach audiences around the world. 

Congratulations to Team Japan! 


baseball, International, japan, MLB

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