In the second semifinal game of the WBC, Japan hosted Mexico in Miami. These two great teams battled until the final pitch for the right to face the United States in the championship.
Roki Sasaki, a 21-year-old well-known amongst Japanese fans for throwing very fast with little effort, started the game with a 101 MPH fastball to Arozarena. Ok, so that’s fast. Surely he won’t throw anything faster, right? Next pitch: 102 MPH. My goodness.
Sasaki manhandled his way through three scoreless innings to begin the game, allowing just two singles in the second that were erased by a double play. He got two quick outs in the fourth, but that’s when Mexico decided they were done being bullied.
Rowdy Tellez got the rally going with a single against the shift and went to second base on a single by Isaac Paredes. Then Luis Urias finally got the best of Sasaki as he simultaneously sent an 0-1 cutter into the Recess Sports Lounge and the crowd into a frenzy. 3-0 Mexico.
Sasaki induced a groundout to end the fourth inning and bring his outing to a close. He was replaced by Yoshinobu Yamamoto to begin the fifth inning.
Roki Sasaki’s final line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 64 pitches, 46 strikes.
That’s gone, too. WAIT, NO...HE CAUGHT IT!
Randy Arozarena loves the spotlight. He feeds off the energy and thrives in it. With no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Kazuma Okamoto sent a ball high and deep out to left, and everyone in the park thought it was heading for the seats. Randy had other plans. He timed it up and leaped just as the ball came down, reached over the wall, and brought it back. He caught it. He actually caught it. And not only did he catch it, but he also stood there like a statue soaking it in as the crowd went berserk.
Randy could be seen signing anything and everything for the fans out in the lounge during every subsequent mound visit. He continued to make excellent plays defensively as the ball continued to find him.
Shohei Ohtani said after the game, “We had no luck hitting in that direction. He made some awesome plays.”
Team Mexico manager Benji Gil said, “I think everyone would agree that [Randy Arozarena] is awesome for baseball.”
Samurai Japan left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings, as José Urquidy took the mound in relief of Patrick Sandoval to keep the game scoreless.
Patrick Sandoval’s final line: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 66 pitches, 46 strikes.
That’s not the foul pole
With two outs and two men on base in the bottom of the seventh, Boston Red Sox free agent signing Masataka Yoshida decided that it was time to bring Japan back into this game. He sent the 2-2 pitch from JoJo Romero out to deep right field and off of the roof support column BEHIND the foul pole for a three-run home run to tie it up.
That’s a nice tie you got there—it would be a shame if someone took it away
Mexico immediately responded in the top of the eighth. Back-to-back doubles off Yamamoto by Big Game Randy and Alex Verdugo put them right back up by a run. Then, Isaac Paredes snuck a single through the left side off Atsuki Yuasa to drive home Jarren Durran, who pinch-ran for Red Sox teammate Alex Verdugo and put Mexico up by two.
Now that’s how you manufacture runs
With a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, Benji Gil looked to righty Jesús Cruz to hold the lead. The plans unraveled quickly as he hit Kazuma Okamoto with the first pitch he threw and allowed a single to Tetsuto Yamada to put two men on with no outs. He played a game of cat-and-mouse with Sosuke Genda, who showed bunt from the moment he stepped into the box. Genda won the battle as he laid down a sacrifice bunt to the right side to move the runners up 90 feet. Samurai Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama’s decision to send pinch-hitter Hotaka Yamakawa to the plate paid off as he hit a sac fly to left field to bring home pinch runner Nakano from third to bring Japan within one.
That’s a nice lead you got there—it would be a shame if someone took it away
Taisei Ota worked around a two-out hit-by-pitch to keep Mexico off the board in the top of the ninth inning. Mexico sent the veteran right-hander from the St. Louis Cardinals, Giovanny Gallegos, to the mound to try and close it out. Shohei Ohtani wasted no time—on Gallegos’ first pitch, he cracked a double to left-center field and swing the momentum entirely in Japan’s favor. As he arrived safely at second base, he turned to his dugout and raised his arms in the air, which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Masataka Yoshida followed with a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto, one of the fastest baserunners in Japanese baseball. He showed off his elite speed as Munetaka Murakami finally broke out of his WBC slump, sending a fly ball off the wall in left-center field. Ohtani rounded third with his hands held to the sky and Shuto breathing down his neck. The entire Japan dugout greeted them as they crossed the plate, and the celebration was on. The comeback was complete. The score was 6-5, and Samurai Japan was moving on to the championship.
Noah’s notes and what’s next
- Wow, what a game.
- Roki Sasaki had an average fastball velocity of 100.5 MPH.
- Randy Arozarena is a gem.
- Mexico Manager Benji Gil had some excellent quotes in the postgame press conference: “Japan moves on, but the world of baseball won today...We lost, but we were not beaten. We were not beaten. They bested us. But for Mexico, it was a victory. It was a victory for the Mexican baseball.”
- As Gil finished his press conference, he received a well-deserved round of applause from some reporters.
- It was a great night for anyone who needed storylines related to the Boston Red Sox.
- I was about to ask Ohtani about the Japanese fans in the building, but they cut the press scrum off right before I could. :(
- After an impressive run, Mexico has been eliminated from the 2023 World Baseball Classic—hats off to them.
- Samurai Japan remains undefeated in this tournament and is set to face off against Team USA in the championship game tonight at 7 PM. The listed starters are Merrill Kelly and Shota Imanaga, but the assumption is that Yu Darvish will replace Imanaga very early in the game and get most of the innings. There is a chance Shohei Ohtani will pitch in relief, depending on when his spot in the order comes up and whether he has time to go out and warm up.
- It’s going to be an epic battle between two heavyweights.
- ‘Til Then!