10 World Baseball Classic moments that thrilled
The 2023 World Baseball Classic is over. And it delivered the most epic moment in the tournament's 17-year history.
The championship game was decided in a showdown between Shohei Ohtani on the mound and Mike Trout at the plate. You couldn't have scripted it any better.
There have been tons of unforgettable moments since the inaugural Classic in 2006. Here are the top 10 moments in World Baseball Classic history.
1. Ohtani vs. Trout for all the marbles
March 21, 2023
The dream matchup everyone was hoping for before the start of WBC '23 came true in the biggest moment of the entire tournament. It was like something out of a movie: Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout. Maybe the two greatest players in the world, facing each other for the first time, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with a gold medal on the line. MLB teammates with the Angels, on opposite sides for the Classic as Team USA faced Samurai Japan in the championship game.
Trout stepped in against Ohtani, pitching as Japan's closer for the final game only, with the U.S. down by a run, 3-2. Ohtani blew two 100 mph fastballs by Trout, but Trout worked the count full. On 3-2, Ohtani uncorked a beautiful sweeping slider and struck out Trout. Game over. Tournament over. Japan won its third WBC gold.
2. Adam Jones saves the day
March 18, 2017
One of the most iconic moments in World Baseball Classic history came in the 2017 WBC. With the U.S. clinging to a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning of its winner-take-all second round game against the Dominican Republic, Manny Machado drove a ball deep off Tyler Clippard. What followed next was a moment burned into the brain of every American baseball fan.
Adam Jones, the former O’s centerfielder who was a clubhouse leader for Team USA, robbed Machado at the last second, his backside slamming into the WBC logo as he stuck his glove out to take a homer away. As Jones skipped into the infield in celebration, Machado raised his helmet in praise of the catch. The U.S. would go on to win 6-3 en route to its first championship.
3. Japan storms back to the finals
March 20, 2023
This semifinal matchup between Mexico and Japan had achieved "instant classic" status well before this moment, with highlights of the first eight innings including an impossibly smooth home run robbery by Randy Arozarena and dueling three-run home runs from Mexico's Luis Urías and Japan's Masataka Yoshida.
The best the night had to offer, however, was well worth the wait. Facing a one-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, Japan sent up the heart of its order -- in the form of Shohei Ohtani, Yoshida and Munetaka Murakami -- and flipped the script with blinding speed. After Ohtani led off the inning with a hustle double and Yoshida drew a walk, Murakami (a two-time Japan Central League MVP at just 23 years old), who had struggled to get going through the first two rounds of the WBC, ripped a walk-off double to the center field wall, sending Japan to the finals for the first time since 2009.
4. Nelson Cruz brings the excitement
March 11, 2017
When Nelson Cruz stepped into the batter’s box against Andrew Miller in the Dominican Republic’s first round matchup against the United States, he had one thing on his mind. With the Dominicans trailing 5-3, Cruz smoked an 0-2 slider from Miller out of Marlins park, giving the DR a one-run lead in the eighth inning.
The homer’s meaning was immediately evident, as Cruz was mobbed at home plate after the blast – despite the game not being over. The Dominicans would go on to win 6-5 in what ended up being the game of the tournament.
5. The Dominican Republic runs the table
March 19, 2013
The Dominican Republic’s run through the 2013 World Baseball Classic is the stuff of legends. Despite facing off against teams filled with major leaguers, the DR went 8-0 through the WBC, culminating with a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the championship game.
Then-New York Yankee Robinson Canó earned MVP, batting .469 with a pair of home runs and six RBIs, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to win a WBC Championship and a World Series. One-time Minnesota Twin Samuel Deduno put up five scoreless innings in the championship game and finished the tournament with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings to lead the DR's pitching staff.
6. The United States finds its glory
March 22, 2017
Prior to 2017, the U.S. had failed to advance past the World Baseball Classic semifinal. That all changed in 2017, as the veteran-heavy American squad finished on first, avenging their earlier loss to Puerto Rico by defeating the then-undefeated Puerto Rican squad 8-0 in the tournament’s championship game.
Marcus Stroman continued his strong tournament performance by silencing Puerto Rico’s bats with six scoreless innings in the championship game. Stroman finished the tournament with a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 innings across three starts. Brandon Crawford and Eric Hosmer both finished with a team-high 10 hits and .385 batting average for the Americans.
7. Javier Báez is magic
March 15, 2017
Coming into the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico stood out as tournament favorites, and their second round matchup did nothing to quell that thinking. In Puerto Rico’s 3-1 second round win over the DR, Báez turned in one of the plays of the tournament, slapping one of his trademark no-look tags on Nelson Cruz.
But it wasn’t just any no-look tag; it was one that came while he was celebrating the throw. Before the ball had even hit Báez’s glove, he started pointing at Puerto Rican catcher Yadier Molina in celebration. El Mago indeed.
8. Dice-K goes back to back
March 23, 2009
While Daisuke Matsuzaka never lived up to the hype stateside, his dominance on the world stage can’t be unnoticed. For two straight WBCs, Matsuzaka was unhittable, and in turn helped lead Japan to two straight tournament championships. In 2006, Matsuzaka went 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA over 13 innings in a performance that shot up his MLB stock.
Three years later, he picked up where he left off, earning the tournament's MVP award with a 3-0 record and 2.45 ERA over 14 2/3 innings on a Japan team that defeated South Korea 5-3 in the championship . With the championship win, Matsuzaka became the first player to win a World Series and World Baseball Championship.
9. Trea Turner clears the bases
March 18, 2023
Venezuela came into this second-round matchup undefeated, and it was easy to see why they had made such fearsome opponents -- after the United States opened the game with five consecutive hits, plating three runs and knocking out starter Martín Pérez in the first inning, Venezuela answered with two of their own. When the United States pulled up 5-2, they put up five unanswered runs. With the United States' bullpen having already taken a beating, they appeared to be at a severe disadvantage.
Then, down 7-5 in the top of the eighth, the United States loaded the bases with nobody out. After a pitching change, Turner, hitting ninth, launched an 0-2 changeup from Silvino Bracho for what would ultimately be a game-winning grand slam, lighting up his dugout and sending the reigning champions into the semifinals.
10. Canada and Mexico come to blows
March 9, 2013
With national bragging rights on the line, it’s only natural that tensions sometimes end up boiling over in the World Baseball Classic. Canada and Mexico’s pool play game in 2013 is no exception.
Despite Canada holding a 9-3 lead going into the ninth inning, Canadian catcher Chris Robinson led the final frame off with a bunt single, a move done in large part due to the tournament’s tiebreaker being run differential. In response, Mexico pitcher Arnold Leon plunked Canada's Rene Tosoni, setting off a bench-clearing brawl that saw seven players ejected.