Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani during their historic World Baseball Classic at-bat in the WBC Final between the US and Japan.
Left:Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Mary DeCicco/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Ohtani vs. Trout: Their Epic WBC Championship Face-Off Was the Stuff of Legends

All across the internet, people are celebrating the World Baseball Classic as an incredibly successful and entertaining event. It turns out having the best players from around the globe play for their home nations in a unique tournament is awesome something the World Cup and the Olympics have known for decades. 

The cranks who claim this is a meaningless tournament that no one cares about and that serious ballplayers should not risk injury by participating simply did not watch an inning of the tournament. They are wrong, and the proof was so evident just by watching the exciting, fun and good product on the field. 

The tournament gave us a ton of brilliant moments and heroes.

Randy Arozarena's home run robbery and subsequent pro wrestling pose

Trea Turner's grand slam to pull the United States ahead of Venezuela in the eighth inning of the quarterfinals. 

Czech electrician-turned-pitcher Ondrej Satoria striking out the best player in the world in the Tokyo Dome, and then describing the moment as "like a heart attack."


But the marquis moment of this WBC, the highlight we'll be telling our grandkids about, was the final at-bat of the tournament. Ninth inning, one-run game. Two titans of baseball facing off with the trophy on the line. And to add to the drama, they're usually teammates. 

Shohei Ohtani on the mound, Mike Trout at bat. 

The At-Bat of the Season

Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani during their historic World Baseball Classic at-bat in the WBC Final between the US and Japan.

Left: Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

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Basically from the moment he started playing in the majors, Mike Trout has been the best player in the world. He's the consummate five-tool player. 

The player who arguably supplanted him as the best player in baseball? His teammate, Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani's offensive numbers are not as gaudy as Trout's, but every five days he does the one thing on the baseball field Trout cannot do: pitch. And he does it really freaking well.

And so in the WBC Final, when Ohtani ran out to the bullpen to start warming up in the sixth inning, fans started dreaming of a potential Ohtani versus Trout at-bat. Things intensified when Yu Darvish retired Cedric Mullins, USA's No. 8 hitter, in the top of the eighth. Fans around the world realized what we were in store for. Ohtani on the hill, Trout due up third in the ninth inning. Oh baby.

After a leadoff walk and an absolutely brutal double play ground out from Mookie Betts, the stage was set for the battle we'd all hoped for. Trout dug in, Ohtani took the ball.

Fox announcer Joe Davis called it "impossible theater." He then referred to the "regal excellence" of Japan, which felt a little weird, to be honest!

Ohtani missed with a slider to start the at-bat but came back to blow a 100 mph fastball past Trout, right down the middle. Trout took a fastball right off the corner, but then swung and missed at another 100 mph fastball, also right down the middle. Ohtani missed badly with the 2-2 pitch, setting up a full count with the game on the line. 

This is one of those moments in a duel that makes baseball so wonderful. Was Ohtani going come back with yet another fastball right down the pike? Would he try going up the ladder to get Trout on something out of the strike zone? Maybe an off-speed pitch in the dirt to try to fool him?

Or how about a nasty 87 mph slider on the black. And for good measure, let's make it one of the nastiest pitches anyone has ever seen. 

Mike Trout striking out on three swings and misses is not something you see every day. In fact, it's not even something you're guaranteed to see every season. According to Codify Baseball, Trout has struck out on three swinging strikes just 24 times in over 6,000 MLB at-bats

Just an incredibly cool moment and a reminder of the one-on-one battles that make baseball so dramatic. 

This Was Probably The Highlight Of The Angels' Season

Shohei Ohtani #16 of Team Japan talks with Mike Trout #27 of Team USA during batting practice prior to the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship game between Team USA and Team Japan at loanDepot Park

Photo by Rob Tringali/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The unfortunate thing for Angels fans is that this may have been the peak of their season. 

The Angels have made the playoffs just one time in Trout's tenure. Last season, they had an incredibly underwhelming 73-89 record. In the last 10 years, they have been about a .500 team, and that includes their lone playoff appearance in 2014, when they won 98 games. It's just an overwhelming blur of meh. 

At this point, the reasons for the Angels' futility are well chronicled: poor free agent signings, poor player development, poor scouting. Unlike some of the cheapskates across MLB, the organization is not afraid to spend money. They just can't seem to spend it in the right way. The Albert Pujols albatross deal hamstrung the Angels for almost a decade. They followed that up with a massive deal to Anthony Rendon, who has not been able to stay on the field and has not produced much when he's been on the field. 

While it would be great to end this piece with a little sprinkle of optimism about the Angels' prospects heading into 2023, the truth is that there's very little reason for optimism. Trout's been battling an increasing number of injuries in the last few seasons. The organization added a few marginal pieces that should help their anemic offense Hunter Renfroe, Gio Urshela — but unless Rendon regains the form he had in 2019, they lack consistency through the lineup.

But the Angels do sport solid starting pitching. And as long as Trout and Ohtani are on your team, you have a chance to win any game. But Angels fans have seen enough headlines touting Trout and Ohtani breaking records in yet another Anaheim loss. They need wins.

Maybe the WBC bounce will put pep in the Angels' collective step. One thing is certain: Seeing Ohtani and Trout on baseball's biggest stage was incredible. For baseball fans everywhere, let's hope we get to see it again in October. 

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