WBC Final Preview: USA and Phillies Stars take on Japan

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 10: Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner (6) at bat during the Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 10, 2021 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

WBC Final Preview: USA and Phillies Stars take on Japan

One of the most exciting baseball games to ever take place in March has landed team Japan into the World Baseball Classic championship game. It will be their 3rd appearance in the finals since the tournament was created in 2006.

Japan walked off team Mexico, starting their rally with a Shohei Ohtani double. New Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida would walk and be the winning run scorer for Japan. Munetaka Murakami roped a double to center field to give Japan the win. Murakami broke the record last season for the most home runs hit by a Japanese-born player with 56, passing legend Sadaharu Oh.

Team USA took down Cuba in a 14-2 rout to get to the final. They slugged 8 extra-base hits including 4 home runs.

Of course, 2 of those came off of the bat of Phillies’ shortstop Trea Turner. Turner has been a menace to international society during the WBC. Turner has hit .368 with a 1.429 OPS. He’s hit 4 homers total to lead team USA in the category. His biggest homer was a grand slam against Venezuela to take a late lead in the quarter-final.

When he’s played, the BCIB, JT Realmuto, has also been on fire. He’s 5/8 in the WBC with 2 doubles.

The Starters

Shota Imanaga has been announced as Japan’s starter for the game. The 29-year-old lefty had a stellar 2022 for Yokohama. He was an 11-game winner with a 2.26 ERA in 143.2 IP. E

His fastball sits around 95 MPH and features a quality changeup. He’s thrown 4 innings in the WBC, striking out 5 and allowing 1 run.

Yu Darvish was originally slated to start for Japan. According to Bob Nightengale, he still could pitch in the game. After the wild semi-final, Shohei Ohtani also mentioned he could pitch in a postgame interview with Ken Rosenthal. “I will definitely be prepared to pitch wherever,” said Ohtani through a translator.

Arizona Diamondbacks #2 pitcher Merrill Kelly will start for Team USA. He had a breakout in 2023 as a 33-year-old. He had a 3.37 ERA in 200.1 IP with a 1.138 WHIP. Kelly uses a 5-pitch mix, featuring his 4-seamer, changeup, cutter, sinker, and curveball. He sits around 93 MPH with his fastball.

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Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire