After a dramatic 9-7 victory over Venezuela, thanks to an 8th innings grand slam from Trea Turner, Team USA will look to continue their quest to defend their World Baseball Classic championship when they take on Cuba in the semi-finals.
USA (4-1) vs Cuba (3-2)
How to Watch:
- Date: Sunday, March 19th
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- Channel: FS1
- Spread: USA -1.5
- Moneyline: USA (-410), Cuba (+330)
- Total: 10 runs (-110)
- RF Mookie Betts (Dodgers)
- CF Mike Trout (Angels)
- 1B Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals)
- 3B Nolan Arenado (Cardinals)
- LF Kyle Tucker (Astros)
- 2B Tim Anderson (White Sox)
- DH Pete Alonso (Mets)
- C J.T. Realmuto (Phillies)
- SS Trea Turner (Phillies)
SP: Adam Wainright (Cardinals)
- LF Roel Santos (no MLB affiliation)
- 3B Yoan Moncada (White Sox)
- CF Luis Robert (White Sox )
- DH Alfredo Despaigne (no MLB affiliation)
- SS Erisbel Arruebarruena (former Dodger)
- RF Yoelkis Guibert (no MLB affiliation)
- C Ariel Martinez (no MLB affiliation)
- 1B Yadir Drake (former Dodgers prospect)
- 2B Yadil Mujica (former Yankees prospect)
SP: Roenis Elias (Cubs)
Team USA is now one step closer to successfully defending its World Baseball Classic title after their dramatic come-from-behind win on Saturday night. They will be looking to keep that momentum going with less than 24 hours of rest as they take on Cuba for a chance to advance to the finals.
Cuba has had a mixed tournament, losing its opening two games in pool play to the Netherlands and Italy before crushing Panama and Chinese Taipei to even their record at 2-2. They were then awarded the Pool A win thanks to a five-way tiebreaker.
Cuba hasn’t played since Wednesday when they held off Australia 4-3 to win their quarterfinal showdown. However, part of that is because they had to fly from Japan to the U.S. on Thursday to prepare for this semi-final showdown. While they have had some time to adjust, there may be some real jet lag to overcome on Sunday night.
This Cuban team may not have many familiar names since it doesn’t have much MLB talent on its roster, with only Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. currently in big league lineups. That in and of itself is notable since this is the first Cuban national team to include MLB players. However, Cuba as a country has a strong track record of baseball success, and many of these players have had long international baseball careers, including Alfredo Despaigne, who played nine years in the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan and holds the World Baseball Classic record with seven home runs over three tournaments.
As a team, Cuba is hitting .311 with a .825 OPA and 29 runs scored in five games. They just haven’t packed a lot of punch, with just two home runs as a team for the whole World Baseball Classic. They have shown good plate discipline with 27 strikeouts and 21 walks in those five games.
Team USA, on the other hand, has struck out 35 times with just 21 walks in five games; however, they also have six home runs as a team and a .884 OPS to go along with a .295 average and 35 runs scored in five games.
Trying to curtail that offensive firepower for Cuba will be seven-year MLB veteran Roenis Ellis who has a 2.57 ERA across seven innings and one start in the World Baseball Classic. He has just three strikeouts and one walk, so he has succeeded by inducing soft contact, which might be a challenge against a lineup full of MLB talent since Elias has a 3.96 career ERA mainly as a relief pitcher during his time with the Mariners, Red Sox, and Nationals.
Despite these two countries being powerhouses with strong baseball reputations, this will be their first World Baseball Classic meeting since they did not face each other in the previous four tournaments.
It’s hard to feel good about Cuba’s chances when they are throwing an average MLB reliever against a team loaded with MLB All-Stars. However, Team USA has had its own issues with its pitching, and starter Adam Wainwright is certainly not the most dominant arm in his older age. Cuba is going to hang around in this one, but I think the power of Team USA will prevail in the end.