Mexico was so close, but Japan had the last word on Monday’s night semifinals. On a heart-stopping game, Japan saved its best for the last minute as they scored six runs in the final third of the contest, including a walk-off double by Munetaka Murakami against closer Giovanny Gallegos to seal the win 6-5.
MUNETAKA MURAKAMI WALKS IT OFF FOR TEAM JAPAN TO HEAD TO THE WBC CHAMPIONSHIP!!!— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) March 21, 2023
Japan is going for the crown! The Japanese squad is in the final for the first time since the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
But it wasn’t easy for them. Early in the game, Mexico enjoyed a nice combination of great defense, good pitching by Patrick Sandoval and Astros’ José Urquidy, plus a shocking three-run home run from Luis Urías’ bat. They began the seventh inning up 3-0 and just nine outs away from reaching the final step for the first time ever.
Sandoval shut down Japan for 4 1/3 innings of four hits, one walk, and six strikeouts while being big-time helped by Randy Arozarena’s defense at left field. Then, Urquidy followed him with 2 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball along with three bases on balls and two punchouts.
But Japan was inching closer with each at-bat.
Masataka Yoshida hit a tying-game homer off JoJo Romero in the seventh. Immediately, Mexico reacted with an Alex Verdugo go-ahead double and an Isaac Paredes single to score two more runs and make it 5-3.
By that time, it seems Mexico could come out with the victory but, again, Japan had a different thinking.
Tetsuto Yamada drove in another run on a single in the bottom eighth and served up the table for the comeback, walk-off in the ninth.
Gallegos came from the bullpen to begin the inning and Shohei Ohtani welcomed him with a double. Gallegos walked Masataka Yoshida, Munetaka Murakami doubled to center field, and that was it.
Japan is headed to the WBC finals and will be facing the United States on Tuesday night at loanDepot park. Tonight’s the night!