Munetaka Murakami hit a two-run, walk-off double, lifting Japan to a 6-5 win over Mexico in a World Baseball Classic semifinal in Miami on Monday.
Japan, which won the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009 and reached the semifinals in the past two editions, will meet the United States for the championship on Tuesday in Miami.
The Japanese team never led in the game until the game-ending run scored.
Mexico was up 5-4 entering the bottom of the ninth, and the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani hit the first pitch from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Giovanny Gallegos for a double. Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox followed with a walk, and Ukyo Shuto took over for Yoshida as a pinch runner.
Murakami, the MVP of Japan’s Central League each of the past two years, then drilled a 1-1 pitch off the wall in right-center field. Ohtani scored, with the speedy Shuto coming home easily, too, to spark a wild celebration.
Ohtani said postgame through an interpreter, “I wish we could have scored more runs earlier to make it comfortable for the pitchers, but the pitchers came through and (I’m) glad we got this win.”
Asked if he would be available to pitch on Tuesday, Ohtani said, “I’ll definitely be prepared whenever to pitch, but before that, I’m going to have to hit, so make sure I put some runs on the board before I get to pitch.”
Taisei Ota earned the win after throwing a scoreless top of the ninth.
Mexico jumped on top thanks to a three-run homer from the Milwaukee Brewers’ Luis Urias in the fourth inning. Japan tied the score on a three-run shot from Yoshida in the seventh.
In the eighth, an RBI double from the Boston Red Sox’s Alex Verdugo and a run-scoring single from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Isaac Paredes put Mexico up 5-3. Japan halved the deficit on a sacrifice fly from Hotaka Yamakawa in the bottom of the eighth.
Mexico starter Patrick Sandoval of the Angels threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out six.