It will once again be a matter of win or go at the 2023 World Baseball Classic at Lawn Depot Park in Miami on Monday. Mexico and Japan will face each other in the second semi-final of the tournament at 7:00 pm ET and will qualify to face the United States in the grand final on Tuesday.
It’s been an emotional and joyous journey for Mexico since Benjamin Gill’s team was eliminated in Group C on March 11 in Phoenix. That defeat seems so long ago. Since then, the Mexicans have won four straight games, defeating their opponents 28-13, winning their group at Chase Field and eliminating Puerto Rico in Miami’s quarterfinals.
For the first time ever, Mexico advanced to the semi-finals after presenting their best roster in all their participation in the Classic. Despite having many major leaguers in his lineup, including Randy Arrozarena, Isaac Paredes, Joey Meneses, and Rhodey Telles, and left-handed Patrick Sandoval scheduled to start on the mound, Gill is Japan’s first. We know we have to start as a strong ninth. Favorite of this game.RELATED
“Japan is a great team. They have big stars,” Gill told MLB.com in an article published by David Venn. We have so much respect for Japan, but we will be focused, dedicated, and do our best.First of all, God, raise your hands in victory on Monday, and on Tuesday can play.”
Sandoval, who faces fellow Angels Shohei Ohtani on Monday, allowed one run in 3.0 innings to win against the United States in Phoenix on March 12.
“It’s life as a player to play against the best opponents and see how your material fare against the best opponents in the world.
Monday is the second time Mexico and Japan have met in the World Classic. The first was in his 2006 inaugural tournament, where Daisuke Matsuzaka handcuffed the Mexican before arriving in his league in the majors and was named the best player of that tournament.
After dominating Group B in Tokyo and also losing Italy in the quarterfinals, Japan left their home country to play their fifth World Classic semifinal.
Led by manager Hideki Kuriyama, the team won five games in this tournament and finished with an overall record of 38-8, overwhelming opponents who weren’t seen as major obstacles. Yuhei Nakamura (.600/.714/1.000), Otani (.438/.625/.813), Masataka Yoshida (.400/.522/.667), Kensuke Kondo (.389/.560/.778) ) and Lars Nootbaar (.368/.500/.368) led the Japanese offense leading the Classic overall with .996 OPS overall.
Japan also leads the pitching staff with an ERA of 1.80.
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“I think what we have to do, what we can do, is not destroy ourselves,” Kuriyama said. “That’s the strategy.”
Roki Sasaki is the starter for Japan’s match against Mexico. In his first start of this classic, the right-hander was the winning pitcher against the Czech Republic, allowing 2 hits and 1 earned run in 3.2 innings, with 8 strikeouts and he had 2 walks. The 21-year-old has appeared in 20 games for Chiba Lotte in his league for Japan’s Pacific, and has a 9-4 record with a 2.02 ERA.
“For the team to win, they have to perform at their best (as much as they can),” said Sasaki, who is being viewed as a future MLB transfer candidate.
Japan have reached the semi-finals in each of the five Classics, but have not reached the Grand Finals since 2009, when they completed a winning cycle in the first two competitions.
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