My predictions for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) have been so wrong, for so long. I think I’m just going to stay quiet now.
The WBC is finally wrapping up and I can go back to other things I’m terrible at…
…like my Fantasy Baseball team.
As Japan bids to maintain its solitary grip on the WBC championships, the Semifinals begin tonight at 9 p.m. ET showdown. Puerto Rico will be bidding to replicate its dramatic triumph against Team USA on Friday night in Miami. Japan looks to three-peat.
The second semifinal will be Monday night. That matches the Kingdom of Netherlands, the Cinderella of this Final Four, against the Dominican Republic at 9 ET. The WBC culminates in its finale on Tuesday night, after which I can go back to watching “Intentional Talk” at its regularly scheduled time.
MLB.com reports on Team Japan this morning. “With baseball,” Koji Yamamoto (manager of Team Japan) said through an interpreter, “anything could happen until the game is over. In that sense, the WBC has incidents of seeing such strong teams falling off, so I don’t want to give or speak in favor of other teams. I’ve been just focusing on how to win. So, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s really exciting.” Japan has won the first two Classics with dominant pitching — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara in 2006, Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish in 2009. Matsuzaka, in Indians camp right now, was the WBC MVP both times.
MLB.com reports that Sunday’s match will favor Japan. Japan puts its ace, 24-year-old Kenta Maeda, against Mario Santiago. Maeda has worked 10 scoreless innings in the WBC. He struck out 15 while allowing just two hits and a walk. Santiago took one of Puerto Rico’s three losses in the WBC. He yielded three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 7-1 decision by the U.S. As reported by MLB.com, “This is my first international match, such a great experience,” Maeda said. “The next match will be the biggest for me.”
In the second semifinal, southpaw Diegomar Markwell, nephew of Andruw Jones, will take the ball for Team Netherlands on Monday night. Markwell is a 231-pound native of Rotterdam. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in the WBC. The unbeaten Dominican Republic will counter with Edinson Volquez, veteran right-hander for the Padres. Volquez has a 6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings, starting twice in the WBC. MLB.com reports, if the Dominicans reach the title game, Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno (1.13 ERA, eight innings) will be manager Tony Pena’s starter.
With Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios faltering, Mike Aviles has been the Puerto Ricans’ primary run producer. The third baseman has eight RBIs in seven games, batting .292 while delivering the team’s lone home run in the WBC. Japan, by contrast, has had 8 home runs in six games. Seven players are hitting .316 or higher, led by Hirokaza Ibata. The second baseman is hitting .571 with an OPS of 1.327. However, how will Japan deal with the time off?