Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani got into Tuesday’s game in the ninth inning to go for the most important save in his career so far.
No, he doesn’t have that many saves – if any – because he is a starter, but circumstances made Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama go with his most trustworthy pitcher to close out his country’s 3-2 victory against the United States in the World Baseball Classic’s final.
After a leadoff walk, he certainly got the job done: he induced a double-play groundball to Mookie Betts, which set up a matchup for the ages: Ohtani vs. Mike Trout.
Yes, the same Trout that has starred in MLB for longer than a decade and shares a team and a friendship with him.
Both stars gave their all, and after reaching 3-2 in the count, Ohtani threw quite likely the best slider of his life to get Trout swinging and secure Japan’s third WBC title.
The MVP spoke after the game and implied he was all out at max effort in the at-bat against Trout.
“Shohei Ohtani to Ken Rosenthal on FOX: ‘Whether I got him out or he got a hit off me, I didn’t want to have any regrets,'” Sam Blum, who covers the Angels on a daily basis, tweeted.
Shohei Ohtani to Ken Rosenthal on FOX:
"Whether I got him out or he got a hit off me, I didn't want to have any regrets."
— Sam Blum (@SamBlum3) March 22, 2023
That means he didn’t want to go easy on him, or get overexcited and lose his focus.
It also means Ohtani handled that at-bat like it came in Game 7 of the World Series.
That was the right approach to have, and it yielded amazing results for him.NEXT: Video Shows Full Battle Between Shohei Ohtani And Mike Trout