Angels react to Trout vs. Ohtani Classic finish

March 22nd, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It actually happened.

After all the talk of a potential matchup between Angels superstars and  in the World Baseball Classic, the stars aligned, and the two faced off with the game on the line on an unforgettable Tuesday night in Miami.

The stakes couldn’t have been any higher, with two outs in the top of the ninth and Team Japan clinging to a one-run lead over Team USA. Trout worked a 3-2 count, only for Ohtani to strike him out swinging with a wicked sweeping slider to give Samurai Japan its third World Baseball Classic title. Ohtani was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament for his efforts, and the matchup was on everybody’s mind in the Angels clubhouse Wednesday morning.

“I don't think you could have scripted it any better,” said first baseman Jared Walsh. “Mike against Shohei, one-run game, ninth inning, full house. That was about as good as it can get.”

Angels manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani being allowed to pitch one inning in the championship game was the plan the entire time, but even he couldn’t believe the way it ended.

“The way it went couldn’t have been any better -- other than maybe not pitching,” Nevin said with a laugh. “I got texts asking me who I was rooting for, but that never crossed my mind. I love this game. And there’s no other sport that can build that kind of drama. It’s why our game is the greatest game there is. The last out, one-run game. It's the two best players in the world.”

Walsh said it was tough to watch the final at-bat because he’s close with both Ohtani and Trout and wanted both of them to succeed. But he noted Ohtani had the advantage this time of year, especially with the kind of stuff he was throwing.

“I was nervous,” Walsh said. “I was sitting there, my heart was pounding because obviously I love Sho, I love Mike. But I'm sitting there thinking, as a hitter, I'm like, ‘You know it's Spring Training, Mike probably hasn't gotten that many at-bats.’ You’ve got to face Shohei pumping 101 with that slider. That was a win-win. But also a lose-lose because you care about all those people involved.”

Angels outfielder Jo Adell also watched the game and came away impressed with the entire tournament, especially the atmosphere. He said he was more excited than nervous at the end of the game and was happy Trout and Ohtani had the chance to have that moment together.

“You love to see it,” Adell said. “I think it's just really good for baseball to have those two facing each other at the end of the game, especially something that big and special. It was really cool to watch. I was excited because these are two players who deserve big moments.”

Adell and Walsh said it also made them hungry to reach the postseason this year, after they saw the kind of success and fun that both Trout and Ohtani had in the tournament. Adell said he’s hopeful they can carry that into the regular season.

“I think it fired all of us up,” Adell said. “You saw the competitiveness between those two. I think it's good going into the year, for them to have kind of felt sort of a postseason atmosphere and having teammates that have been out there competing at that level early on. They can bring that into the early part of the year.”

But now that the tournament is over, Ohtani and Trout are shifting their focus to get ready for the start of the regular season.

Ohtani is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Friday to get ready for his Opening Day start against the A’s in Oakland on March 30. He was originally going to pitch in a Cactus League game, but the Angels want him to pitch in a controlled environment after his heavy workload in the Classic, including his relief appearance on Tuesday.

Trout, meanwhile, is heading back to Southern California and won’t play in any of the club’s remaining Cactus League games in Arizona. But he’ll play in the club’s exhibition Freeway Series against the Dodgers that begins on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“Friday is Shohei’s pitch day to get ready for Opening Day, and he’s going to be just fine,” Nevin said. “And Mike wouldn’t have got here in time to play today, and we’re off tomorrow so no sense in him coming back here. So he’ll be working out at the stadium on Friday and Saturday, and he’ll play Sunday.”