After Japan’s 9-3 victory on Thursday, becoming a member of Cuba within the World Baseball Traditional semifinals, the event now has solely six groups left.
On Friday night time Mexico will play Puerto Rico in Miami for the precise to play Japan on Monday, after which on Saturday the US will sq. off towards Venezuela (additionally in Miami) with the winner going through Cuba on Sunday.
Lengthy story brief: This factor is coming all the way down to the wire now. It solely will get extra enjoyable from right here.
So, to reset earlier than the weekend’s motion, right here’s a take a look at the main storyline for every of the six groups remaining.
Puerto Rico: Can they recuperate from the devastating Díaz damage?
Up till the second Edwin Díaz collapsed beneath a number of of his celebrating countrymen, Puerto Rico needed to assume that perhaps this was their yr. After two consecutive second-place finishes within the WBC, the crew this yr had thrown an ideal recreation, knocked out the vaunted Dominican Republic crew and arrange an enchanting matchup with Mexico for the precise to go to the semifinals. It was noteworthy how properly supervisor Yadier Molina, a person lengthy regarded as managerial materials however doing this for the primary time, had arrange his bullpen and roster; it was all going precisely to plan. After which Díaz went down. That’s clearly going to be an issue for the Mets, but it surely’s an issue for Puerto Rico too, and never simply because the crew is now down its nearer. How does a crew rebound emotionally from such whiplash? They’ve roughly 40 hours to determine it out.
Mexico: Is Randy Arozarena on one other one in all his heaters?
Randy Arozarena has established himself as a powerful MLB common with the Rays — he did win the AL Rookie of the 12 months award a few years in the past, in any case — however he’ll endlessly be recognized for his 2020 postseason, when he mainly become Babe Ruth and carried the Rays into the World Sequence. It positive appears like he’s again at it once more within the WBC. He’s tied with Japan’s Masataka Yoshida for many RBIs within the event (9), and is just three RBIs behind the all-time report of 12, held by Wladimir Balentien (2017 Traditional). He’s already turn into a transparent folks hero in Mexico, and a visit to the semifinals may elevate him to legendary standing. There could also be nothing scarier than Arozarena in a brief sequence.
Venezuela: Is Miggy going to exit a champion?
Solely two groups have been undefeated within the WBC to this point: The white-hot sensation that’s the Japanese crew, and the Venezuelan crew, which solely made it to the semifinals as soon as, again in 2009. That crew featured Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu, Francisco Rodriguez, Endy Chavez, Felix Hernandez and … Miguel Cabrera, who, 14 years later, is captain of the crew. He’s additionally, as you may have heard, about to play his last season within the Majors, which implies he’s bought the chance to bookend his profession: A World Sequence title with the Marlins in his rookie season in 2003 and a WBC title with Venezuela in 2023. He has solely performed two video games within the Traditional to this point, going 1-for-9, however he’ll undoubtedly have the chance to complete off his profession in model.
United States: Is Trout going to hold the USA all the best way?
That is Mike Trout’s first WBC — after lacking the 2017 championship, one thing he nonetheless regrets — and he’s taking advantage of it. The crew captain is hitting .417 and has a homer and 6 RBIs, searching for all of the world like a man who is completely elated, after eight years away from high-stakes elimination baseball, to play beneath some legit stress. I’ve argued that this might find yourself being The 12 months of Trout, and there’d be no higher option to kick that off than with Trout profitable a WBC for the US. He appears for all of the world like a person on a mission. It’s one thing to see.
Cuba: Is that this crew — the primary one with MLB gamers — the one which lastly breaks by way of?
Again in 2006, the Cuban crew, which due to Cuban’s political scenario on the time, had a roster filled with gamers virtually nobody knew exterior the nation, completed second to Japan within the first World Baseball Traditional. (Future Main Leaguers on that crew included Yuli Gurriel and Alexei Ramirez.) This yr’s crew, which, for the primary time, options gamers each from Cuban leagues and Main League Baseball (most notably Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert Jr.), is again within the semifinals for the primary time since 2006. They’ve hardly been dominant on this event — they have been a part of that five-team scrum at 2-2 in Group A — but it surely doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved to this point: All Cuba has to do is win two video games in a row, and they’re going to make historical past as solely the fourth nation to win the World Baseball Traditional.
Japan: Can this crew be stopped?
Is it potential this Japanese crew has essentially the most dominant crew in WBC historical past? They’re undefeated in 5 video games, positive, however they’ve completely trounced their opponents, outscoring them 47-11. They’ve bought essentially the most electrical participant on the planet in Shohei Ohtani, they’ve a folks hero (who is also placing up a .522 OBP) in Lars Nootbaar (the primary non-Japanese-born participant on their roster), they’ve bought a lineup filled with mashers and, oh yeah, they’re even stealing extra bases than anyone else within the event. They’ve additionally been a riveting watch from begin to end, due to Tokyo Dome followers who clearly stay and die with their dwelling nation’s crew. Can they carry all the enjoyment with them on the flight to Miami? If Japan can win these final two video games, they’ll have gained three of the 5 World Baseball Classics. However after they discuss the most effective Japanese groups … I wager they’ll discuss this one.