It’s a dream championship game for the organizers of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles as the United States takes on Puerto Rico. The Americans are slight betting favorites.
There will be a first-time champion of the World Baseball Classic with the USA and Puerto Rico squaring off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 from Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico reached the championship game in 2013 but lost to the Dominican Republic. The USA has never reached the title game; Japan won the first two WBCs in 2006 & ’09.
The Puerto Ricans advanced with a 4-3 win in 11 innings over the Netherlands in the championship round Monday in L.A. WBC rules dictate that starting in the 11th inning, runners are placed on first and second base in an effort to prevent marathon games on players who still aren’t quite in 100 percent shape from the offseason.
The Dutch didn’t score in the top half of the 11th inning due into an inning-ending, bases-loaded double play. In the bottom half, the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina bunted the runners on first and second base over to second and third. The Cubs’ Javier Baez was intentionally walked, with Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario following with the game-winning sacrifice fly. Puerto Rico, a baseball-mad country, has won all seven games of the tournament by a combined score of 55-18.
The Americans advanced with a 2-1 win over Japan on Tuesday. The Giants’ Brandon Crawford scored the tiebreaking run when Japan’s Nobuhiro Matsuda bobbled Adam Jones' (Orioles) grounder to third in the eighth inning. The U.S. had reached the semifinals only once before, in 2009.
Team USA is a -115 favorite for the championship game on 5Dimes MLB odds with a total of 7.5 and the ‘over’ a slight betting favorite there. On the runline, Puerto Rico is +1.5 at -175.
The USA lost to Puerto Rico 6-5 in the previous round, which was not single elimination. Edwin Diaz (Mariners) struck out Josh Harrison (Pirates) to end the game with Crawford on third base. Puerto Rico took control with a four-run first inning. It had six straight singles and a sacrifice fly in that inning off the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman.
Stroman, who was great in the opening round vs. the Dominican Republic, gets the call here for the USA and he will have a pitch limit of 95, although surely he will not approach that. Stroman could have pitched for Puerto Rico as his mother was born there, but Stroman grew up in the USA. Jonathan Lucroy (Rangers) is expected to be the starting catcher for the USA and not Giants star Buster Posey. Manager Jim Leyland has been rotation his catchers on a game-by-game basis and Posey was behind the plate Tuesday. Posey could DH.
Puerto Rico will counter with Seth Lugo (Mets), who has won both of his starts in this tournament. Lugo has allowed three runs in 11 WBC innings. All three were in that first USA game over 5.2 innings. Posey and Jones homered off him.
Both these teams are star-studded. Puerto Rico has the better infield with Baez at second, the Indians’ Francisco Lindor at shortstop and Astros’ Carlos Correa at third. The USA is better in the outfield with the Marlins’ Christian Yelich (left), Jones (center) and either Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) or Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) in right.
It’s the most important international baseball game for Team USA since Tommy Lasorda led the Olympians to the 1990 gold medal. But this means even more to Puerto Rico. Some veterans with World Series rings like Molina and Carlos Beltran have said winning the WBC the highlight of their careers.Free WBC Picks: Puerto Rico -105 & ‘Over’ 7.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes