USA vs Japan: Best Bet for the World Baseball Classic
With 9 days till Opening Day of the MLB
season, we still have to crown a champion in the World Baseball Classic. Team
USA will host Team Japan at 7:00 E.T. on Tuesday on FOX for bragging rights.
USA are the reigning champs dating back to 2017 while Japan finished third. The
fifth WBC was scheduled for 2021 but was postponed due to the COVID-19
pandemic. Nonetheless, let’s dive into our best bet for the 2023 World Baseball
Classic via DraftKings Sportsbook.
The path has not always been easy for Team USA. As favorites in pool C, USA handled Great Britain in their opener but then were dominated by Mexico by a score of 11-5 to fall to 1-1. Meanwhile, pool C underdogs Colombia and Canada started out 1-0 and ultimately controlled their own destiny. Since that loss to Mexico, USA never looked back. As expected, they finished Canada in 7 innings by mercy rule and went on to beat Colombia to advance to the WBC quarterfinals against undefeated Venezuela.
It got shaky late Friday night as USA trailed by 2 runs in the top of the 8th inning. Philadelphia Phillies newcomer, Trea Turner, found himself at the plate with the bases loaded for the biggest at bat of his life. In an 0-2 count, Turner took one to deep left field and within seconds the whole USA bench was at home plate to bombard the shortstop after his homerun. They closed it out with Houston Astros closer Ryan Pressley and cemented their ticket to the semifinals against Cuba.
Sunday night was a breeze for Team USA. After a hit parade by Cuba in the 1st inning off of veteran Adam Wainwright, USA jumped on Cuba for 13 runs in the first six innings and stamped a trip to the WBC final with the winner of Japan and Mexico awaiting.
Japan has yet to lose in this tournament and can become only the second team in WBC history to make an undefeated run with a win on Tuesday night. Led by 2021 MVP and multi-dimensional superstar Shohei Ohtani, Japan rolled through group stage by outscoring their opponents 38 to 8. Next came Italy in the quarterfinals where Ohtani pitched 4.2 innings and struck out 5 batters. He threw 71 pitches in the 9-3 victory but has said he will be available in relief if need be tonight.
Last night was Japan’s first test. Against a Mexico team that defeated USA and Puerto Rico, Japan found themselves down 3-0 in the bottom of the 7th inning in the semifinals. Boston Red Sox’s star Masataka Yoshida came up to the plate with 2 outs and in a 2-2 count tied the game with a 3-run shot. Mexico answered with 2 runs of their own in the top of the 8th followed by a Japan run in the bottom of the inning to shorten the lead to 1. Then came the 9th and magic happened. Ohtani opened the 9th with a belted double into the gap followed by a walk that led pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto to first base. Munetaka Murakami delivered the hit of his life and drove in both speedsters to lead Japan to the World Baseball Classic Final.
Millions across the world will be tuned into this finale. These two were presumed to match up from the group stage after betting favorite Dominican Republic failed to make it out of their pool. All eyes will be on Team USA’s loaded lineup against left-handed pitcher Shota Imanaga. USA will counter with Arizona Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly. Both pitchers are making the starts of their lifetime and will have the pressure of their respective countries on their shoulders to eat up valuable innings.
Both teams have yet to release their lineups prior to publication but we can presume no changes will be made. 1-9 hitters from both squads are red hot and can score runs in bunches with power and speed on the basepads. Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout headlines the USA lineup in the two-hole followed by reigning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt.
Japan will answer with a loaded lineup of their own that is led by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar who born in the USA but has Japanese ties back to his mother. Ohtani hits third for Japan followed by cleanup hitter Masataka Yoshida who will made his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox’s in the coming days.
Merrill Kelly will simply have his hands full against this Japan lineup that has torn through their opponents. His 3.96 career ERA in the MLB will be put to the test against a Japan team that has scored at least 5 runs in every game during their 6-0 run. With arguably the top 10 pitchers to come out of the United States all opting to stay with their major league teams for spring training, USA will need plenty of runs to outlast Japan. USA gave up 20 combined hits to Venezuela and Cuba for 7 and 2 runs. They’ll be extremely lucky to give up a ton of hits that won’t lead to runs.