The World Baseball Classic started with 20 teams eyeing the title and now there are just four teams left.
The biggest news was that the Dominican Republic, which was listed by the sportsbook as the favorite at +200 coming into the tournament, failed to reach the knockout stage of the WBC, going 2-2 in Pool D.
Japan is the only team yet to lose, going 4-0 in pool play and then topping Italy in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals begin on Sunday with the United States favored against Cuba and Monday Japan is the favorite against Mexico.
When looking at the World Baseball Classic odds, the U.S. is priced at +105 to win it all followed by Japan at +130. The title game is set for Tuesday night in Miami. The total for the U.S.-Cuba game is 10 compared to 8 for the Mexico-Japan matchup.
World Baseball Classic – Semifinals
Cuba opened the tournament with losses to the Netherlands and Italy and has been facing a win or go home scenario in its next three games.
Livan Moinelo and Raidel Martinez threw scoreless eighth and ninth innings after Australia had cut a three-run Cuba lead to one. Yoelkis Guibert had a two-run single in the fifth inning to give Cuba the 4-1 lead.
Roel Santos (.429, .556 on-base percentage), Yoan Moncada (.421, four extra-base hits, five RBIs), Alfredo Despaigne (.412, three doubles), Yadir Drake (.412) and Yadil Majica (.400, six RBIs) are all hitting .400 or better for a deep Cuba lineup.
Roenis Elias is set to start for Cuba. He won 10 games in 29 starts as a rookie with the Seattle Mariners, but has started just five games over his last five MLB seasons.
Elias pitched five scoreless innings in a 6-3 loss to Italy on Mar. 9.
Trea Turner saved the United States from being another pre-tournament favorite to exit the World Baseball Classic early. His grand slam in the top of the ninth inning gave the U.S. the 9-7 win over previously undefeated Venezuela.
OH MY TREA TURNER 😱
GRAND SLAM TO GIVE USA THE LEAD 🇺🇸
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 19, 2023
Now the U.S. will turn to 41-year-old Adam Wainwright to pitch the U.S. to the title game as they move one step closer in the quest to defend its WBC title.
Wainright allowed five hits and one run in four innings in his only previous appearance in the tournament as the U.S. opened with a win over Great Britain.
Six relievers were pressed into duty in the quarterfinal win over Venezuela, although none of them threw more than an inning. There were three days between the end of pool play and the quarterfinals so it will be interesting to see which pitchers will be unavailable with the U.S. playing on back-to-back days.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto leads the team with a .625 batting average. Mike Trout (.353, six RBIs), Nolan Arenado (.350, three doubles), Tim Anderson (.333), Kyle Tucker (.333) and Paul Goldschmidt (.313) are all batting over .300 while Turner has two home runs and six RBIs. The U.S. is favored at -420 to win the semifinal.
Cuba vs United States Game Information
- Game: Cuba (3-2) vs United States (4-1)
- Location: LoanDepot Park, Miami
- Day/Time: Sunday, March 19, 7 p.m. ET
- Cuba vs United States Live Stream: MLB.tv
Mexico has won four games in a row since opening the tournament with a 5-4 loss to Colombia. Still, the World Baseball Classic picks view Mexico as the underdog.
Randy Arozarena has been tearing it up during the tournament with a .471 average, five doubles, a home run, nine RBIs and five walks. Joey Meneses (.391, two home runs and six RBIs) and Austin Barnes (.357) are other top hitters.
Julio Urias was the starter in Friday’s quarterfinals and Assad threw 41 pitches out of the bullpen so they figure to be unavailable.
Japan has been rolling through the competition, outscoring its first five opponents 47-11.
Catcher Yuhei Makamura is hitting .600. Former American League Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani is batting .438 with seven runs, three doubles, one home run and eight RBIs. Kensuke Kondoh (.389, eight runs, seven walks, five RBIs), Lars Nootbaar (.368, two stolen bases)
Ohtani has also won both of his starts on the mound. The World Baseball Classic lines list Japan at -300 to win the semifinal matchup.
Mexico vs Japan Game Information
- Game: Mexico vs Japan
- Location: LoanDepot Park, Miami
- Day/Time: Monday, March 20, 7 p.m. ET
- Mexico vs Japan Live Stream: MLB.tv
World Baseball Classic Semifinals Picks & Prediction
Japan has looked like the best team in the tournament as there is much more to that team than just Ohtani.
The U.S. will be on an emotional hit with the way the quarterfinal game played out so it is hard to go against the two favorites. With Cuba priced at +1500 to win the title, it will be tempting for those who bet online to roll with them. Mexico’s title odds are currently set at +450.
A Tuesday night championship showdown between Japan and the United States would be a perfect way to end the tournament and will dominate the MLB news cycle.