The conclusion of the World Baseball Classic happens Tuesday evening in Miami and while the event has long been fun for those interested, this one has been electric basically from start to finish. The low points would obviously and unfortunately be any injuries involved, even though injuries happen in spring training, too. The high points have been ridiculous. So many country-centric celebrations in the crowd. Big moments. Huge home runs. And just last night, the walk-off victory for Japan after trailing pretty much all game.
It is USA vs. Japan for the trophy. Let's get some action going here (all odds via Caesars Sportsbook)...
OVER 9.5 runs total
Japan, unbeaten to this point, is hitting .314/.471/.515 as a team for the tournament, averaging 8.83 runs per game. USA is hitting .310/.402/.567, averaging 8.17 runs per game. USA's stats were bolstered a bit by the blowouts against Cuba and Canada, but this is still a totally loaded offense that is finding its groove in Miami. The Trea Turner grand slam propelled USA to victory over an excellent Venezuela team and then launched the USA offense into a 14-run affair against Cuba, with Turner homering twice. USA leads the tourney with 10 homers while Japan has seven. USA might have the better lineup, but it's not a lopsided comparison. Japan's offense is stupid good.
Merrill Kelly gets the ball for USA and while he's a quality MLB pitcher, he's not the type of ace that inspires gamblers to hammer the under. There's similar sentiment for Japan's Shōta Imanaga. He's good! He's just not necessarily ace level against a lineup that bats Trea Turner ninth. Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish were expected to be in the mix here, but Japan is turning elsewhere, at least to start.
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Speaking of, it's always possible those two go in relief while USA has a rested group of ace relievers -- including Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly -- so we'll need to see some scoring early to feel good about the over. I think we'll get there. We only need something like a 6-4 final score.
Speaking of ...
First three innings total, OVER 2.5 (-145)
Loaded offenses that are both hot against less-than-ace pitching, yes, I'd say I love at least three runs in the first three innings.
Game pick: USA -135
Maybe I'm hedging here. I had Japan coming into the tourney and my desire to nail that pick ends up getting trumped for rooting for my country, I guess. I think the USA offense provides at least the six runs we'll likely need to hit the over and then USA's relief corps -- Kendall Graveman, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly -- shortens the game and shuts the door.
There's great value on Japan, though, so I wouldn't argue with that pick. Both teams have their mojo going and both have ultra-talented rosters, particularly offensively. It'll be fun.