Puerto Rico's difficult World Baseball Classic path continues today as they fly to San Francisco to play second-seeded Japan a day after losing to the top-seeded Dominicans.
Japan enters the Championship Round after going undefeated in the second round. Their only loss in the tournament came in their second game against Cuba during the first round. Unlike their opponents, Japan will be well rested for today's game. They have been off the from tournament since beating the Netherlands on Tuesday to earn the top seed out of Pool A. They have played several exhibition games against Major League teams this week to stay sharp, however.
Japan will send Kenta Maeda to the mound. Maeda has dominated in this World Baseball Classic. He has won both of his starts, pitching ten innings with just two hits and one walk allowed while striking out fifteen. He will face right-hander Mario Santiago who gets the start for Puerto Rico. Santiago struggled in his previous WBC start, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks over four-plus innings in a loss against the US.
Puerto Rico will need to get their offense back on track after struggling at the plate against the Dominicans yesterday. The return of their star catcher, Yadier Molina will help them some. Molina sat out of the game against the Dominicans to rest after catching nine innings against the US the day before.
Japan's offense has been led by infielder Hirokazu Ibata, who is hitting .571/.684/.643 with nine RBIs in the Classic and captain Shinnosuke Abe who leads the team with 13 total bases and two home runs.
Puerto Rico vs. Japan: Sunday, 6 p.m. local, 9 p.m. ET
Venue: AT&T Park San Francisco, California, USA
TV: MLB Network, ESPN Desportes en Español