March 17, 2023

WBC: Japan (5-0) Advances To Semifinals, Outscoring Opponents 47-11

The champion of the fifth World Baseball Classic tournament will be crowned next Tuesday. Right now, six teams remain in contention.

Cuba and Japan have advanced to the semifinals. Their opponents will be determined tonight and tomorrow. All of the remaining games are in Miami and will start at 7 PM ET.

Puerto Rico and Mexico meet tonight; the winner will play Japan on Monday. Puerto Rico is without closer Edwin Díaz, who tore the patellar tendon in his right knee during the celebration after Wednesday's win against the Dominican Republic. The starting pitchers are Marcus Stroman of the Cubs (PR) and Julio Urías of the Dodgers (Mexico). Mexico's Randy Arozarena is crushing the ball: 7-for-14 (.500/.632/1.071), with one home run, five doubles and nine RBIs. [UPDATE: Mexico won 5-4.]

The United States and Venezuela square off on Saturday, with the victor playing Cuba the following day. Lance Lynn will start for the US. The winners of the two semifinal games will battle on Tuesday for the championship.

Last night, Japan topped Italy 9-3. Kazuma Okamoto drove in five runs with a three-run homer and a two-run double. He also walked twice. Munetaka Murakami went 2-for-3 and scored three runs.

Shohei Ohtani (4.2-4-2-1-5, 71) went 1-for-4 and scored two runs – and threw the fastest pitch (102 mph of his career. Yu Darvish pitched two innings of relief, his first relief stint since he was 23 years old and pitching for the Nippon-Ham Fighters 13 years ago.

Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida homered, drove in two runs and scored twice. In five games, he's 6-for-15, with 10 RBI. His 1.189 OPS (.400/.522/.667) is fifth-best among players with five games played. In 23 plate appearances, he has not struck out.

Japan (5-0) has outscored its opponents 47-11. They lead all teams with a .475 OBP and a .996 OPS and also have stolen a tournament-high eight bases. The pitching staff has a puny 1.80 ERA and is allowing an average of five hits and one walk per game (26 hits, five walks).

The Eight Quarterfinal Teams

              G   RS   RA    DIFF
Japan        5   47   11    + 36
Puerto Rico 4  30   12  + 18
Venezuela    4   23    9    + 14
Mexico     4   27   14    + 13
Cuba      5   29   18  + 11
USA    4   26   16    + 10
Australia   5   32   23    + 9 [eliminated]
Italy    5   23   26    - 3 [eliminated]

Japan has finished as one of the top four teams in all four previous WBC, winning the first two in 2006 and 2009 and finishing third in 2013 and 2017. No other country/team has finished in the Top 4 more than twice. The Dominican Republic won the 2013 title and the US won in 2017.

If Japan advances to Tuesday's championship game, Ohtani would be on four days rest.

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