MIAMI — The matchup that many had dreamed about all along — between two of the world’s baseball powerhouses and two of its best players in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout — is exactly what it came down to.
Ohtani, the two-way phenomenon, was Japan’s designated hitter all game and took the mound in the ninth inning with the chance to close out a title. And with a powerful inning, including a six-pitch strikeout of his Los Angeles Angels teammate Trout, Ohtani sent Japan into pandemonium.
With a 3-2 win, Japan dethroned the United States on Tuesday at loanDepot Park in Miami and claimed the 2023 World Baseball Classic trophy. The United States won the W.B.C. the last time it was played in 2017.
Behind power hitting and stout pitching, Japan went 7-0 in the tournament and further cemented its place as the top country in the history of this tournament, which began in 2006. In the five editions of the W.B.C., Japan has now won three times.
Despite a lineup filled with Most Valuable Player Award winners and All-Stars from Major League Baseball, the United States mustered little against Japan, a team made up mostly of stars from that country’s top professional league. And, of course, arguably the best player in the world: Ohtani.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Ohtani showed off his speed by beating out a throw from United States shortstop Trea Turner to earn a single. And when the inning was over, he jogged over to Japan’s bullpen in left field to warm up his right arm. His teammate, Yu Darvish, a longtime major leaguer who pitches for the San Diego Padres, injected drama into the game.
Originally lined up to start the final game until a switch the day before, Darvish entered as a reliever in the eighth inning. But United States designated hitter Kyle Schwarber blasted a solo home run into the right field seats to trim the deficit to one run and re-energize the crowd of 36,098.
A small lead, though, was enough for Japan with Ohtani looming as a closer. Normally a starting pitcher, Ohtani made his first relief appearance since 2016, when he played for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.
Before the game, Ohtani, the unanimous winner of the 2021 American League M.V.P. Award in M.L.B., addressed his teammates and told them to stop admiring the superstars on the other side.
“If you admire them, you can’t surpass them,” he said, according to reports. “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 United States struck first against Japan in the second inning. Turner, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop who powered the United States earlier in the tournament, smashed his fifth home run of the W.B.C. He clobbered a low fastball from Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga into the left field seats. The many United States fans in attendance and Turner beamed in the dugout afterward.
But the lead didn’t last long. In the bottom half of the second inning, Japan tied the score when the slugging third baseman Munetaka Murakami destroyed a pitch from United States starting pitcher Merrill Kelly into the upper deck. The home run by Murakami, who set the Japanese single-season record for homers by a native-born player last season, with 56 for the Yakult Swallows, was measured at 432 feet.
Japan’s lineup then chased Kelly from the game with two singles and a walk. A groundout by Lars Nootbaar, a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder whose mother is Japanese, gave his team a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth inning, Japan again displayed its strength at the plate. Facing Kyle Freeland, first baseman Kazuma Okamoto sent a hanging slider over the left-center field wall to extend Japan’s lead to 3-1.
Then in the later innings came Darvish’s stumble, Schwarber’s blast and Ohtani’s effort.