Japan pitcher Shohei Ohtani celebrates after defeating the U.S in the...

Japan pitcher Shohei Ohtani celebrates after defeating the U.S in the World Baseball Classic championship Tuesday in Miami. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

MIAMI — The World Baseball Classic got its out-of-this-world moment in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s championship game at loanDepot Park.

Shohei Ohtani, the sport’s only two-way star, facing off against his Angels teammate, three-time MVP Mike Trout.

Talk about an instant classic.

This possibility of the stars aligning for this exact showdown had been dreamed about since the tournament began two weeks ago, on opposite sides of the planet. So when Samurai Japan and Team USA wound up together in Tuesday’s title game, it was that much closer to reality.

Then Ohtani, who started at his usual DH spot, wound up heading to the bullpen, where he was later called on for his first closer cameo since 2016 as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. With two outs, the battle lasted six pitches, with Ohtani whiffing Trout on an 88-mph slider that sealed Japan’s 3-2 win over Team USA.

“Obviously it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to,” Trout said. “I think as a baseball fan, everybody wanted to see it. He won round one.”

Trout was smiling as he finished that statement, in a way laughing at the absurdity of how ridiculous it was trying to hit Ohtani during that particular at-bat. It would be difficult enough during a live BP session back at spring training. But with a WBC title on the line? Ohtani went next level for Trout. He dialed it up to 11.

“I thought it was like a Manga, like a comic book,” said Japan’s Kazuma Okamoto, who homered in the fourth inning.

Added Lars Nootbar, “I think with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout ending that game the way they did, I think baseball won again.”

Ohtani threw a pair of 100-mph fastballs right past a swinging Trout, who got nothing but air, then fired one at 102 that couldn’t get him to chase. The final pitch was an 88-mph slider that Trout waved at again hopelessly as Ohtani’s teammates swarmed him at the mound.

“I had a certain type of plan,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “But I think the target ball depends upon the batter. You just had to trust your sense though.”

Added Trout, “He’s got nasty stuff. He’s throwing 101, 102. He threw me a good pitch at the end. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to him.”

Ohtani’s ninth did begin a little bumpy, however. With U-S-A chants ringing through the stadium, the Mets’ Jeff McNeil led off with a seven-pitch walk, his fourth in five plate appearances, and yelled to fire up the dugout on his way down the line. But the spark was extinguished quickly, as Mookie Betts bounced into a 6-4-3 double play and Trout was no match for a laser-focused Ohtani, who was named MVP for the tournament.

“He’s a competitor, man,” Trout said. “That’s why he’s the best.”

And Japan, for that matter, which paved a path to Ohtani by using a deep and talented staff that simply outclassed its WBC opponents. Team USA couldn’t counter it. Ideally, with so much stake, you’d think the U.S. would have slightly better options than throwing a succession of Merrill Kelly, Aaron Loup and Kyle Freeland through the first five innings. No offense to that trio, but it’s not quite on par with a lineup that featured three former MVPs at the top.

Even Rob Manfred agreed, with the commissioner saying before Tuesday’s game, in essence, that the league had to get better arms to participate in the WBC. Manfred didn’t mention anyone by name, but USA manager Mark DeRosa’s stable drove home the point after being staked to an early lead by Trea Turner’s fourth home run in three games.

Japan deployed a more winning strategy, enlisting the country’s top arms while borrowing two All-Stars from MLB: Ohtani and Yu Darvish. In a somewhat surprising move, Japan didn’t start Darvish for the title game, but summoned him from the bullpen in the eighth inning to protect the 3-1 lead.

Then again, it’s also spring training, when even the elite arms are still working into shape, and Darvish lost a 10-pitch battle to Kyle Schwarber, who fouled off six straight before belting a 2-and-2 splitter into the rightfield upper deck. Darvish gave up a single to Turner, but retired the next two to set up the ninth everyone hoped for: Ohtani as closer for the first time since he finished the clincher that got his Fighters team into the 2016 Japan Series. He was fired up from his pregame speech, when he implored his Japan teammates to put aside their “admiration” for the MLB stars in order to “surpass” them.

“Obviously we have respect,” Ohtani said after the victory. “But at the same time, it looked like we might be beaten down [beforehand]. So just forget about those kind of feelings. We’re just even. We have to just beat ‘em. And that’s the thing. I just wanted to bring that feeling up amongst us.”

They responded. The previously slumping Munetaka Murakami, who hit 56 homers to break Sadaharu Oh’s single-season record last season, followed up Monday’s walk-off double by swatting a 432-foot homer off Kelly to open the second inning. Later, when Japan loaded the bases that same inning, Loup limited the damage to Lars Nootbaar’s RBI groundout.

When Freeland’s turn came up, Kazuma Okamoto took him deep with a leadoff homer in the fourth to put Japan ahead 3-1.

For Japan, Tuesday night’s championship game seemed to be the sport’s Everest, valued beyond even its own NPB championship. Nearly half of the nation’s TVs were tuned in to the earlier rounds, and the games at the Tokyo Dome shattered earlier attendance records.

“I think we can prove how good Japanese baseball is in the world,” Masataka Yoshida said through an interpreter.

Mission accomplished.

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