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Gamethread: United States vs. Japan (WBC title game)

Mike Trout and Team USA face off against MVP Shohei Ohtani and Japan, as the U.S. looks to steal back-to-back titles

Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout face each other in tonight’s WBC title tilt.

The World Baseball Classic championship is officially here, and after a thrilling semifinals matchup from Mexico and Japan, I can’t wait to get back into the action! The United States are coming off two really strong wins, scoring 23 runs in their last two games.

What an absolute treat to watch two of the best to ever play the game, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, duke it out for the World championship — can you imagine if those guys played on the same team together?!

Merrill Kelly will start his second game for the United States, and if we’re lucky, we will get a better performance than his previous outing. Unfortunately for us, Lance Lynn can’t make every Team USA start, so we are Team Kelly today (no, not Joe, Sox fans). In his three innings, Merrill has given up two runs on four hits, also walking two and only striking out one. It’s tough to make a judgment on just a small sample size, and Kelly’s career and 2022 season definitely portrayed a better picture than the WBC start. In 2022, Kelly posted a 3.37 ERA over 200 innings, and struck out 177 batters with a 1.14 WHIP. Let’s channel this version of Merrill tonight to keep the United States in the game against a dangerous Japanese lineup.

Japan’s pitching staff, bolstered by stars Shohei Ohtani and Roki Sasaki, have the strongest rotation in the tournament, with a 2.33 ERA over 54 innings, while also striking out the most batters (72). Shōta Imanaga will take the mound for Japan, who has a 2.25 ERA in the WBC, and a career 3.01 ERA in Japan’s NPB. He has given up just three hits in his four innings in the tournament, and the one run he gave up was a solo shot.

Team USA will look for the same sustained production on the offensive end, especially from the hot bats of Trea Turner, Nolan Arenado, and Mike Trout, who have combined for 24 hits and 16 runs scored. We can only hope they can sustain this type of production against Imanaga, but if Turner wants to go ahead and splash a couple, two, tree more bombs to left tonight, I sure wouldn’t mind that!

Japan’s offense is pretty much just as scary as their defense, especially with weapons such as Ohtani and left fielder Masataka Yoshida. We already know Ohtani is a next-level player, and even in his 20 WBC at-bats, he has a .450 BA with 1.421 OPS, but Yoshida, who signed with Boston for 2023, has been just as, if not more, effective as Shohei has been. Yoshida is slashing a team-best .474/.571/.833 in 19 at-bats, and also leads in RBIs with 13. Japan’s hitters could be a tough match for Kelly, but he has a solid defense behind him, as well as a star-studded lineup from top to bottom that should definitely be able to give Japan a run for its money.

Today’s lineup for the United States:

Japan’s lineup for tonight:

Catch all the action tonight at 6:00 p.m. CT on FS1 — let’s see if the United States can win back-to-back championships, or if Japan is able to pull off the same heroics they did last night.


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