Although it was presumed that teams like the USA, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico had the greatest upside to win the World Baseball Classic championship this year, Japan took it home with ease. Japan defeated the USA 3-2 in the final game which turned out to be a pitcher’s duel to say the least. They took home their third World Baseball Classic championship.
USA did have nine hits in the nightcap, but Japan’s Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish handled and minimized the runners in scoring position very well. Trea Turner and Mookie Betts both had multiple hits that night for the USA, but they were not as timely as Japan’s.
Japan was able to draw several walks, causing several runners to get on base and get into scoring position. There were major timely hits from Okamoto and Murakami, as they each had a homerun a piece. Lars Nootbar did not have a base hit to show for the night, but he was able to ground out so Okamoto could score in the second inning.
Although he struggled at the plate in the final game, Lars Nootbar was one of the most clutch hitters for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Nootbar’s role for Japan was the leadoff hitter that played either CF or RF the whole tournament. He put together long at-bats that kept the innings long for Japan’s offense. An interesting fact is that Nootbar had a language barrier during the whole tournament from him and his teammates as he did not know Japanese. His mother was born and raised in Japan, and that qualified him to play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Nootbar is going to have a breakout season with the St. Louis Cardinals, sources say.