It's the absolute, ultimate, perfect ending: Ohtani vs. Trout

Japan's two-way superstar says he’ll even be ready to pitch in relief

March 21st, 2023

MIAMI -- It’s here. The matchup the world has been waiting for: Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout. 

On Tuesday evening, the two Angels teammates will take the field against each other in the USA-Japan championship game of the World Baseball Classic (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

Both are All-Stars. Both have won an AL Silver Slugger Award. Both have been named MVP. And both are players the baseball world has been itching to see together in the postseason.

The World Baseball Classic has created an environment akin to playoff baseball, but even louder and more celebratory. In this environment, there’s national pride on the line. And of course, only one team can come out victorious.

Outside of seeing his teammate and the captain of the U.S. team in the opposing dugout, Ohtani is looking forward to facing a stacked roster. 

“Not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars and household names,” Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Monday after Japan's epic 6-5 walk-off win over Mexico in the semifinals. “I’m just excited to face that lineup, and it’s a great thing for Japanese baseball.”

Both Trout and Ohtani have been demolishing baseballs in the six games they’ve each played. Here’s how their stats line up:

• Trout: .318/.444/.591 with one homer, seven RBIs, one double and one triple
• Ohtani: .450/.621/.800 with one homer, eight RBIs, four doubles and one stolen base

Trout’s lone homer in the Classic came on March 13 against Canada, when he demolished a three-run blast to cap off a nine-run bottom of the first inning for the United States.

Meanwhile, Ohtani last homered the day before Trout, on March 12 when he faced Australia during the group stage. He did show off during batting practice prior to Monday’s semifinal, though, raking a ball into the top half of the second deck down the right-field line at loanDepot park.

“I knew Team Mexico was watching,” Ohtani said.

Trout won’t be the first teammate Ohtani has faced this Classic. He already went up against David Fletcher (Italy) in the quarterfinal and Patrick Sandoval (Mexico) in the semifinal.

Though Ohtani won’t be the starting pitcher, there is a possibility that he could take the bump as a reliever. After Japan’s win on Monday, Ohtani told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that he’d be prepared to pitch in relief in the championship game on Tuesday.

“I love this game, more than any other game in the world," Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. "I want to see this game grow. I think this tournament has been unbelievable. ... The games have been amazing. The players have been awesome. The energy, the fans, passion, the attention. So if he wants to pitch and take the mound, I think it would be great for the world to see him in that environment.”

Back in 2016 with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani started the game as DH and then came in as the closer to help the Fighters clinch the Japan Series.

“At the time, I was told in the fifth inning of that game,” Ohtani said. “I took an at-bat in between, went in the bullpen in the back and took another at-bat and came into the game.”

If that happens and Trout is due up, there’s no doubt it will be a faceoff for the ages. One of the most electric and exciting pitchers and designated hitters in baseball going up against the Team USA captain and a known slugger? That’s must-watch baseball.

"I know this is a big night in baseball," Angels manager Phil Nevin said. "I can’t wait to watch it. Who wouldn't want to see the two best players in the world go at it? And we'd have a lot of fun talking about it the rest of the year.”