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World Baseball Classic 2017: USA vs. Japan preview, start time, TV channel, and how to watch online

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Nolan Arenado and Team USA have to bring down undefeated Japan if they want a spot in tomorrow’s final

One winner-take-all game down, two more to go. Last night’s semifinal gave us Puerto Rico in the finals, after they defeated the Netherlands, 4-3 in 11 innings. Tonight we find out who will join them in the World Baseball Classic finals on Wednesday.

Pool E champions Japan play their first WBC game away from the Tokyo Dome since they lost in the semifinals in 2013 at AT&T Park. That was the first time in tournament history Japan had failed to make it to the finals after winning the inaugural edition in 2006 and the follow up in 2009. The United States, runners-up in Pool F, last made it to the semifinals in 2009, losing to eventual champion Japan.

How they got here

There may not be a more baseball-mad nation than Japan. Fans packed out the Tokyo Dome for Pool B and Pool E games (crowds averaged over 34,000 for the WBC games), providing a very real home field advantage to the hosts. Of course, they have the talent to back it up. In the first round they took down Cuba (11-6), Australia (4-1), and China (7-1) to win the group. In Pool E, Japan won their first game in extra innings over the Netherlands, 8-6. Then they played some tense games but were able to advance after wins over Cuba (8-5) and WBC Cinderella Israel, 8-3.

Team USA is playing its second consecutive win-or-go-home game after their victory over the defending champions, the Dominican Republic, on Saturday. They qualified for the finals by beating the DR in a rematch from Pool C, an incredible game that the US lost 7-5. They were still able to advance Pool F by defeating Columbia (3-2 in 10 innings) and Canada (7-0). It took a come from behind victory to beat Venezuela (4-2) and they had another rally fall just short in a 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico.

Who got them here

Japan’s high powered offense has had a lot of drivers, which is part of what makes the engine run so well. Outfielder and cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh won MVP of Pool B thanks to two home runs in 11 at bats,. Hayato Sakamoto of the Yomiuri Giants has also had a brilliant WBC: 9-for-20 with three doubles and six runs scored. Catcher Seiji Kobayashi (8-for-18 with one home run), infielders Nobuhiro Matsuda (8-for-20 with a home run), Sho Nakata (three home runs in 17 at bats), and Tetsuto Yamada (8-for-25 with two home runs) round out the home run hitters in the tournament. Yamada won the Central League MVP in 2015 and Nakata, teammate of legendary pitcher/hitter Shohei Otani, was named the best first baseman in Japan’s Pacific League in 2016 for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Oh yeah, they’re stacked, even without Otani.

Leading the pitching staff is Kodai Senga, who has three appearances (including one start) and 11 strikeouts in nine innings pitched, the best strikeout total in the tournament. Right behind him is Tuesday night’s starter Tomoyuki Sugano, who has 10 strikeouts in 813 innings. He has allowed five runs in the WBC, thanks at least in part to two home runs. Closer Kazuhisa Makita has also allowed a few runs but he’s appeared in five of Japan’s six games and has struck out six in six innings.

It’s difficult to say who has been the primary catalyst for the United States. From a statistic standpoint, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford’s 8-for-18 with three doubles and a triple leads the team from the bottom of the lineup. Object of twitter’s ire Eric Hosmer has gone 8-for-21 with a homer and two doubles, and Christian Yelich has been a machine, hitting 7-for-20 with five RBI. But the heart and soul of this lineup has been Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. Despite just six hits in 27 at bats, two of those either tied the game or gave the US the win. Oh, and he did this. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has had a tough WBC, just 3-for-22 with a home run and four runs scored.

The United States rotation has been excellent. Drew Smyly, Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, and Marcus Stroman have allowed just five earned runs in 26 innings. Tanner Roark, who allowed three runs in a 113 innings in Pool C against the Dominican Republic, will get the start tonight and, if they advance, Stroman will get the start tomorrow. Despite some struggles out of the ‘pen, Sam Dyson, Luke Gregerson, Nate Jones, Rockies’ Jake McGee, and Pat Neshek have not allowed a run in 1413 innings with 10 strikeouts.

It’s a star studded match-up that is part of what makes the WBC so entertaining: a clash of baseball styles and star power. Assuming the starters can hold their own, this should be quite the back-and-forth affair.

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Semifinal Schedule for Tuesday, March 21

United States vs. Japan

Location: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Time: 7:00 p.m. MT

TV: MLB Network

Steaming: MLV.tv

Championship Round

WBC Championship Schedule

Date Team vs Team Time Venue
Date Team vs Team Time Venue
Semifinals
March 20 Netherlands (3) vs Puerto Rico (4) F/11 Dodger Stadium
March 21 United States (2) vs Japan (1) F Dodger Stadium
Finals
March 22 United States vs Puerto Rico 7:00 pm MT Dodger Stadium

Second Round Recap

WBC Pool F Schedule and Results

Date Team v Team Time Venue
Date Team v Team Time Venue
March 14 Dominican Republic (1) vs Puerto Rico (3) Petco Park
March 15 Venezuela (2) vs United States (4) Petco Park
March 16 Venezuela (0) vs Dominican Republic (3) Petco Park
March 17 United States (5) vs Puerto Rico (6) Petco Park
March 18 Puerto Rico (13) vs Venezuela (2) Petco Park
March 18 United States (6) vs Dominican Republic (3) Petco Park
March 19 TBD TBD N/A Petco Park

Pool F Standings

Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
1 Puerto Rico 3 0 22 8
2 United States 2 1 15 11
3 Dominican Republic 1 2 7 9
4 Venezuela 0 3 4 20

WBC Pool E Schedule and Results

Date Team v Team Time Venue
Date Team v Team Time Venue
March 11 Cuba (1) vs Israel (4) Tokyo Dome
March 12 Japan (8) vs Netherlands (6) Tokyo Dome
March 13 Netherlands (12) vs Israel (2) Tokyo Dome
March 14 Cuba (5) vs Japan (8) Tokyo Dome
March 14 Netherlands (14) vs Cuba (1) Tokyo Dome
March 15 Israel (3) vs Japan (8) Tokyo Dome

Pool E Standings

Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
1 Japan 3 0 24 14
2 Netherlands 2 1 32 11
3 Israel 1 2 9 21
4 Cuba 0 3 7 26