Japan's Masataka Yoshinda (34) celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning of a 2023 World Baseball Classic semifinal game against Mexico on Monday in Miami. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
March 21 (UPI) -- Infielder Munetaka Murakami smacked a two-run double off the left-field wall to lead Japan to a walk-off win over Mexico and into the 2023 World Baseball Classic finale.
Japan's Masataka Yoshida also went 3 for 4 with a 3-run homer in the 6-5 victory Monday at loanDepot park in Miami. Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani recorded two hits and scored the game-tying run.
"I just had to go and get something and get a good swing," Murakami told MLB Network in an on-field interview. "It has been tough. But we got the win. That's all that matters now."
Japan will battle Team USA in the title game at 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Miami. The game will air on FS1.
"We were kinda down when we couldn't get runs," Ohtani said. "We just never gave up and it showed."
Ohtani and Japan trailed 5-4 to start the bottom of the ninth. The Angels star hit the first pitch of the half-inning to center field for a leadoff double. St. Louis Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos walked Yoshida in the next exchange.
Murakami the proceeded to smash a 1-1 fastball to center field. Ohtani raced home from second base. Pinch runner Ukyo Shuto chased close behind and slid in to provide the game-winning score.
Neither team scored through the first three innings of Monday's semifinal. Mexico starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval allowed just four hits and no runs through the first 4 1/3 innings.
Japan starter Roki Sasaki retired Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo and Washington Nationals infielder Joey Meneses to start the bottom of the fourth.
Milwaukee Brewers infielder Rowdy Tellez and Tampa Bay Rays infielder Isaac Paredes followed with singles. Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Urias homered two left center field two pitches later, giving Mexico a 3-0 lead.
Japan rallied to tie the score with a three-run seventh.
Houston Astros relief pitcher Jose Urquidy retired pinch hitter Shugo Maki and Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbar to start the bottom of the seventh. Japan's Kensuke Kondoh followed with a single to right. Cardinals relief pitcher JoJo Romero then replaced Urquidy on the mound.
He issued a walk to Ohtani in his first exchange. Yoshida followed with a three-run homer to right.
Mexico responded with two runs in the eighth. Verdugo drove in the first run of the inning with a double to center. Paredes later hit an RBI single to left to give Mexico a 5-3 lead.
Japan pinch hitter Hotaka Yamakawa hit an RBI sacrifice fly to left in the bottom of the inning. Japan trailed 5-4 to start the ninth.
Relief pitcher Taisei Ota hit Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Alek Thomas with a pitch in the next half-inning, but did not allow Mexico to score.
Ohtani then sparked the rally with his leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth.
Kondoh, Tetsuto Yamada, Ohtani and Yoshida each recorded multiple hits in the win. Paredes went 3 for 4 with an RBI and run scored for Mexico. Urias went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored in the loss.
"We haven't been able to go past the semifinal, so this is a huge win for us," Murakami said. "We are going to compete our hearts out."
Team USA's Paul Goldschmidt hits a two-run home run in the first inning against Cuba at the 2023 World Baseball Classic semifinal game in Miami on March 19, 2023. USA beat Cuba 14-2. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo