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United States vs. Japan, 7:00 ET
If you haven’t been watching the World Baseball Classic – and ratings suggest you probably haven’t been watching – you’ve really been missing out on some great baseball. If you read my opening article about this, you’ll know I have a ticket on Japan that I’m looking to cash tonight. At +300 we even have some hedge value. We could bet 1.5u on the United States (tonight’s favorite -120) and assure ourselves of at least 1.2u of profit.
The United States has Merrill Kelly pitching for them tonight. Kelly was a guy last season that made me a lot of money because his team sucked but he was really good. He pitched in the USA’s win over Columbia earlier in the tournament and went three innings, throwing 61 pitches and allowing just two runs on four hits. He wasn’t particularly sharp though with 36 strikes and 25 balls. He will need to be better than that tonight if the US expects to win. After a loss to start the tournament against Mexico – the team that just lost to Japan – they have put up some big numbers in three of the other four games. Their game against Cuba saw them win 14-2 as the offense exploded. They haven’t had to face any of the best pitching in this tournament – not that they can’t the offense for the US is loaded. But, they are a bit home run dependent and that could cause issues for them. Trea Turner may be the key to this as he has been on fire lately.
Japan finally had a close game last night. They played Mexico and they were trailing in the bottom of the ninth before the magic happened. The whole game was great, as they were down 3-0 then scored three in the bottom of the seventh. Mexico responded with two in the top of the eighth before Japan got one run in their half. That set the stage for the ninth when stud Shohei Ohtani doubled to center, left-fielder Yoshida walked, and Murakami hit a bomb to center and both runners scored. It was a really entertaining game. Now, Japan has Shota Imanaga is pitching for Japan tonight. He hasn’t pitched since the second game of the tournament. He went three innings and allowed just one earned run on three hits. Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani will both likely be available to pitch out of the bullpen. It should be interesting to see how the staff is used today.
If the US can get to Imanaga I think they win the game with ease. If they don’t I think it could be a challenge to win the game against Darvish and Ohtani. I do think I’ll hedge a bit personally and take the US here, but I still think the pitching in tonight’s game probably has more of an edge for Japan. If I didn’t have a future I would probably lean toward Japan. I think the best bet here is under 10 runs. Both teams are hitting very well, but this could be like a playoff game where teams are both tight.
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