Munetaka Murakami’s deep double bounced off the wall, scoring Shohei Ohtani from second and pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto from first to win the World Baseball Classic semi-final against Mexico and send Japan to its third-ever final.
Japan never led to the last goal of the game – after trailing Mexico 3-0 and then 5-3 over the course of the game.
Mexico closer Giovanni Gallegos gave up a double to Ohtani, then walked Masataka Yoshida to set up the winning hit for Murkami. Shuto came in to pinch Yoshida.
Japan, which won the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009 and reached the semifinals in the past two editions, will meet the United States for the championship in Miami on Tuesday.
Mexico led 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth and Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels hit the first pitch of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gallegos for a double.
Munetaka Murakami’s walk-off two-run double propelled Japan to the championship vs. the USA
Shohei Ohtani’s double in the ninth set up a comeback for Japan to win against Mexico
Japanese players took to the field – on their way to their third WBC championship game
Murakami, Japan’s Central League MVP each of the past two years, then boomed a 1-1 throw off the wall into right midfield. Ohtani scored, while speedy Shuto also came home easily, sparking a wild celebration.
Ohtani said through an interpreter after the game, “I wish we could have scored more runs sooner to make the pitchers comfortable, but the pitchers came through and (I’m) glad we got this win.”
Taisei Ota earned the win after throwing a scoreless top of the ninth.
Mexico jumped out on top thanks to a three-run homer by Luis Urias of the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth inning. Japan came alongside on a three-run shot from Yoshida in the seventh to score Ohtani and Kensuke Kondo.
In the eighth, an RBI double by Alex Verdugo of the Boston Red Sox and a runscoring single by Isaac Paredes of the Tampa Bay Rays gave Mexico a 5–3 lead. Japan cut the deficit in half on a sacrifice fly by Hotaka Yamakawa in the bottom of the eighth.
Mexico-starter Patrick Sandoval of the Angels threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings and struckout six batters.
When asked about the emotions in the dugout after Yoshida’s three-run home run to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Japanese Lars Nootbaar said the team was just trying to keep a cool head and stay focused.
Crazy game, man. Crazy emotions. But it’s good to be on top,” Nootbaar told Fox after the game.
After trailing 3–0, Boston Red Sox signing Masataka Yoshida hit a three-run home run
The shot scored Ohtani and Kensuke Kondo to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh
But Mexico took a 5-3 lead on RBI hits from Alex Verdugo (above) and Isaac Paredes in the eighth
Mexico’s pitchers held Japan off in the eighth inning, but couldn’t hold on in the ninth.
It was Munetaka Murakami who scored Ohtani and Shuto to win the match for Japan
Japan will now take on the United States in the championship game at loanDepot Park in Miami
“Yoshidas have become so big for us this whole tournament and we were getting guys all game long, we just weren’t cashing in.
“So I think as a group we had a little bit of confidence that we would pull somebody over the line, it’s just a matter of when… That’s kind of the mindset of the group, never give up. We play for our country in the WBC, it’s incredible.’
After Japan’s hit and celebration, Ohtani spoke to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal and described what the team was feeling and what was going through his mind in the bottom of the ninth.
“Murakami was … he had a little breakdown, but he … got to the point where he was going to get through it,” Ohtani said through an interpreter.
“I led off the inning, he threw it across the strike zone, I just wanted to get a good swing on it. Got a decent first ball, was right over the zone, right over the plate, got a good swing on it.’
Ohtani and Japan will now face his Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout and Team USA in the WBC Championship game.
The two-way playing Ohtani told Rosenthal that he would be available to throw, but that he wants to take a few hits at the plate first.
“I will certainly be willing to throw anywhere, but for that I have to hit first and make sure I put some points on the board before I throw,” he said in Japanese.