Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Mookie Betts had two hits but the Team USA lineup otherwise was largely held in check in a 3-2 loss to Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic championship game. Betts’ Los Angeles Dodgers teammate, Will Smith, did not appear in the loss.
There was an expectation Betts would play some second base, but he started in right field in all seven games Team USA played in the WBC, batting .313/.333/.355 with one double and one RBI.
Will Smith was 2-for-10 with a home run over three games as he alternated starts behind the plate with J.T. Realmuto.
Trea Turner initially kept his hot hitting going with a solo home run that gave the United States a 1-0 lead in the second inning. It was Turner’s fourth homer in his past seven at-bats and his five long balls are the most by a Team USA player for his career in the WBC.
Overall, Turner’s five home runs tied with Seung Yuop Lee (Korea) for most in a single World Baseball Classic tournment.
A lack of quality starting pitching depth ultimately caught up to the U.S., who had Merrill Kelly on the mound. The right-hander was unable to protect the early lead as he gave up a game-tying leadoff home run to Munetaka Murakami in the bottom of the second inning.
Kelly allowed two more singles and issued a walk to load the bases. He traded an out for a run before getting through the inning, and that held as the difference until Kazuma Okamoto hit a solo home run off Kyle Freeland in the fourth.
Team Japan masterfully navigated a bullpen game that culminated with Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani pitching the final two innings. Darvish surrendered a solo home run to Kyle Schwarber in the eighth and Ohtani retired Mike Trout in the ninth inning en route to converting the save.
Tuesday was the fourth time Team USA and Team Japan have met in the WBC. The United States previously was victorious in the second round of the 2006 tournament and 2017 semifinal. Japan now has victories over the U.S. in the 2009 semifinal and 2023 championship game.
Japan additionally won the World Baseball Classic championship in 2006 and 2009.
Mookie Betts enjoyed WBC
Although critics used Edwin Díaz’s injury as reason to denounce participation in the WBC, Betts didn’t see reason to blame the international tournament and was among the Dodgers who spoke highly of his experience.
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