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Japan is the team of the World Baseball Classic to this point. Not just the 2017 edition, but the history of the entire tournament.
Japan won the inaugural tourney in 2006, won again in 2009, and then made it to the semifinals in 2013. Japan is undefeated in this year’s edition of the World Baseball Classic. That’s a whole lot of accolades for one team, and Japan doesn’t even have its best player, Shohei Otani, on the roster this year thanks to injury. Japan’s back in the semifinals again in spite of this, taking on a United States team that has never reached the championship round.
The lineup the USA used to get here is frightening, especially when manager Jim Leyland remembers Paul Goldschmidt should be in it: A win against Japan would give the U.S. a showdown with Puerto Rico, who is trying to make up for last year’s loss in the finals to the Dominican Republic.
Like Japan, Team USA doesn’t have its best player (Mike Trout), but in spite of this, a pitching staff comprised of starters Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, Tanner Roark, and Marcus Stroman has handled the competition. Roark will be the one facing Japan on Tuesday, with Stroman pitching in the finals should the USA get there.
The last time USA made the semifinals was 2009, when it lost to Japan 9-4. Roy Oswalt started that game for the U.S., giving up four runs in 3-2/3 innings. That lineup was a good one, too, with Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter, Adam Dunn, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, and more in it. But it wasn’t enough.
That’s kind of the beauty of the WBC, though, especially at this stage. You only get one chance, and even the best team isn’t necessarily going to win in that scenario. You can’t predict who is going to win between Japan and the USA in one game. You can watch, however, and see for yourself who will be in the finals against Puerto Rico.
- Wladimir Balentien hits baseballs very, very far, and he added on an incredible bat flip to this shot against Puerto Rico on Monday night.
- Javier Baez has helped make the act of tagging a baserunner exciting, and now he's shown off that he can also avoid tags as well as he can apply them. This is just ridiculous.
- Puerto Rico walked off against the Netherlands in the 11th, ending a game that thrilled from start to finish.
- Here: Watch 46 seconds of Javier Baez doing cool things with his bat and glove during the WBC.
- The future of the White Sox needs more than just early extensions for their young talent.
- The Phillies look shockingly different than they did five years ago, but that's not a bad thing.
- The Giants had bullpen problems last year, and they might not be going away, as now reliever Will Smith left a spring training game with elbow pain.
- The Rays announced Kevin Kiermaier's contract extension, which will keep him around through 2023.
- That might not be the last transaction of the spring for the Rays, either, as Alex Cobb is in trade rumors and the man himself knows his time in Tampa Bay is likely limited.