After Japan’s dramatic come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Mexico in the semifinals, they advanced to the World Baseball Classic finals against Team USA, who are looking to defend their World Baseball Classic championship.
USA (5-1) vs Japan (6-o)
How to Watch:
- Date: Tuesday, March 21st
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- Channel: FS1
- Spread: USA -1.5
- Moneyline: USA (-125), Japan (+105)
- 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: Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks)
- CF Lars Nootbaar (Cardinals)
- RF Kensuke Kondah
- DH Shohei Ohtani (Angels )
- LF Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox)
- 3B Munetaka Murakami
- 1B Kazuma Okamoto
- 2B Tetsuto Yamada
- SS Sosuke Genda
- C Yuhei Nakamura
SP: Shoto Imanaga
The 2023 World Baseball Classic, which has broken records for TV viewership and attendance will come to a close on Tuesday night with a showdown between two of the clear favorites USA and Japan. While the USA is looking to defend its title from the 2017 event, Japan will be looking for its third World Baseball Classic title.
In addition to there being plenty of good baseball action on the field, this matchup features personal stories galore for those who love a good narrative.
Lars Nootbaar, who is representing his mother’s Japanese heritage, will face off against Cardinals teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani will likely pitch in relief against his Angels teammate Mike Trout, and new Red Sox left fielder Masataka Yoshida continues to introduce himself to American baseball fans by setting the World Baseball Classic record for most RBIs in a single tournament.
Records being set are nothing new for this year’s World Baseball Classic. Team USA’s opening game against Great Britain on FOX averaged 1.592 million viewers. That made it the most-watched first-round game in America since 2009. Japan’s games set TV records for the island nation, outpacing even coverage of their own Olympics hosted in Tokyo.
The records were set in person too. This year’s games drew 1,010,999 fans, which is up 98% versus the previous record of 510,056 in 2017. The average game attendance of 25,275 was also up 24% from 2017. Pool B, which was held at the Tokyo Dome, broke records for the most fans in any round in the history of the World Baseball Classic (361,976) with an average attendance of 36,198 fans.
It’s hard not to see why; the product on the field has been tremendous and despite Team USA’s early hiccup against Mexico, these have been the two strongest teams in the field.
Team USA’s bats have started to heat up after a slow start. Their 49 runs scored in the tournament are the 6th-most ever scored in a single World Baseball Classic, and they scored 23 runs combined in the quarterfinals and semi-finals alone. Trea Turner, who hits ninth for Team USA, has already set a USA record for a single World Baseball Classic with four home runs.
However, this offense that’s loaded with MLB All-Stars will find the sledding a bit tougher against a Japanese team filled with the best players from the Nippon Professional Baseball League who actually lead the WBC with a .986 team OPS and .471 on-base percentage through their six games.
Japan has the lowest ERA of any team in the World Baseball Classic, posting a 2.33 mark through its six games. Their pitchers have also struck out a WBC-leading 72 hitters in just 54 innings. Team USA’s pitchers, for comparison’s sake, have struck out just 48 hitters in 52 innings. Japan’s pitchers have also held hitters to just a .181 batting average, the lowest in the tournament.
After using 21-year-old phenom Roki Sasaki, who struck out 173 batters in 129.1 NPB innings last season, to start against Mexico and then turning to Pacific League MVP Yoshinobu Yamamoto for the bulk of the relief work, Japan will have both Yu Darvish, who was the winning pitcher in the 2009 WBC final, and Shohei Ohtani available to pitch Tuesday.
While neither one of them is scheduled to start, it’s highly likely that both will see innings out of the bullpen, which will make this quite a test for the United States.
Offense feels like it might be hard to come by here just because of how good the pitching should be. Under 10 runs feels like a strong bet, but this USA lineup is just a bit more dynamic in my opinion, and I think that could carry them over the finish line in what will likely be an epic showdown.