Will Japan go undefeated and claim its third World Baseball Classic title? Or will the United States repeat as 2023 WBC champions?
We can only hope that the WBC final is a fraction as good as the semifinal matchup between Japan and Mexico was on Monday night.
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Masataka Yoshida launched a three-run homer for Japan to even the score at 3-3. Mexico responded with two runs in the top of the eighth inning to take a 5-3 lead, but Japan cut the lead to one in the bottom half of the inning. The score held at 5-4 until the bottom of the ninth. Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani led off the inning with a double, and Yoshida drew a walk to put two men on for Japan with none out. That set the stage for Munetaka Murakami, who delivered a walk-off, two-run double to send Japan to the final against the USA.
The shocking comeback sent the crowd, and the Japanese announcers, into an absolute frenzy. Have a listen below.
The Americans took a far less dramatic route to the final, destroying Cuba by a score of 14-2 in their semifinal matchup. USA is the defending WBC champions from 2017 (the COVID-19 pandemic forced the long layoff between WBC events). The only team to ever win consecutive WBC championships was Japan in 2006 and 2009.
This final game should be incredible with both nations adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach with their loaded rosters. Think of this as an MLB All-Star Game on steroids.
Canadian fans and sports bettors can watch the game at 7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet East, and Sportsnet One.
WBC final odds
Here are the odds for Tuesday night’s WBC final:
|USA||-1.5 (+120)||-132||o10.5 (-106)|
|Japan||+1.5 (-148)||+108||u10.5 (-114)|
BetMGM also sent out the following betting insights for the game on Tuesday morning:
As you can see, the Americans have opened as slight favourites and oddsmakers are expecting some offence, as evidenced by the high 10.5-run total.
FanDuel is also offering player home run props for the finale:
USA has outscored its opponents 49-25 in the tournament to this point and will have home-field advantage in this one (game is being played in Miami).
Manager Mark DeRosa has not formally announced who his starting pitcher will be yet, but he’s hinted that Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly will likely get the nod. Kelly pitched last Wednesday, yielding two runs on four hits across three innings of work against Colombia. The 34-year-old has never pitched in the MLB postseason, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the pressure of such an important start.
Pitching has been a weakness for the Americans at the WBC, as the staff has coughed up 25 earned runs and has a collective 4.33 ERA to this point.
Player to watch: Trea Turner
Turner is hitting .386 with four homes for Team USA. He also became the second player in team history (Ken Griffey Jr. was the other) to post a multi-homer game with a pair of blasts against Cuba in the semifinals. He also launched a go-ahead grand slam to propel the Americans to a win in the quarterfinals against Venezuela. Turner is +350 to go deep on Tuesday night.
Japan is a perfect 6-0 through pool play and the two knockout rounds and has outscored its opponent 53-16 in the process.
Southpaw Shota Imanaga will get the start on the mound for Japan. He’s allowed three hits and one earned run with five strikeouts across only four innings of work in the WBC.
There was speculation leading up to the final that righty Yu Darvish would get the start, but he’s now likely to follow Imanaga in relief. The San Diego Padres starter has allowed three earned across five innings pitched in the tournament, and many of Team USA’s stars have had plenty of at-bats against him over the course of his lengthy MLB career.
Ohtani, who has 10 strikeouts across 8 2/3 innings of work in the tournament, has said he’ll also be available for relief work in the final, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll enter the game as a pitcher. If he does, we could see Ohtani square off with his Los Angeles Angels teammate, Mike Trout, at some point in the game. Wouldn’t that be quite the spectacle?
Japan’s pitching has been the best in the tournament, limiting opponents to just 14 earned runs while boasting a 2.33 ERA. The pitching staff also has a tournament-leading 72 strikeouts to its credit.
Player to watch: Masataka Yoshida
Chaim Bloom and the rest of the members of the Boston Red Sox front office must have grins a mile wide after watching their big offseason signing flourish in the tournament. Yoshida is hitting an incredible .474 with a tournament-leading 13 RBIs entering the finale, and his confidence couldn’t be higher after Monday night’s three-run blast that vaulted Japan back into contention. The 29-year-old outfielder played seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional League prior to moving to MLB.