By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
If you are still smarting from betting on the Dominican Republic to win the World Baseball Classic, hopefully you didn’t try to make it up investing in Puerto Rico. This part of the bracket has been almost as shocking as any time in WBC history.
Sure, Mexico has star power like Randy Arozarena and Julio Urías, but to have Joey Meneses and Rowdy Tellez become the stars of the WBC, labeling them a “Team of Destiny” may be appropriate.
However, their toughest test will be Monday night in Miami in a quarterfinal against the current favorite in Japan. No team has a higher OPS (.996) or a lower ERA (1.80).
So, how should we bet on it? Odds are courtesy of FOX Bet.
Mexico vs. Japan at LoanDepot Park, Miami, 7 p.m. ET Monday, FS1 and FOX Sports app
Point spread: Japan -2 (Japan favored to win by two or more runs, otherwise Mexico covers)
Moneyline: Japan -227 favorite to win (bet $10 to win $14.41 total); Mexico +175 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $27.50 total)
Total scoring over/under: 8 runs scored by both teams combined
Because of pitch counts and MLB commitments, there may be more factors than usual for managers to consider when choosing starters. For instance, we probably saw the last of Shohei Ohtani on the mound in the WBC. Because he is slated as the Los Angeles Angels’ Opening Day starter March 30, having him pitch in the semis or finals would be too close to that game, so the expectation was always to make Ohtani the quarterfinal starter.
Instead, 21-year-old Roki Sasaki will start for Team Japan. To put his previous WBC start in perspective: Out of 66 pitches, 21 of them were clocked at more than 100 mph! When someone that young can throw that hard, stamina may be the last thing to worry about.
Shohei Ohtani & Japan vs Mexico World Baseball classic semifinals preview
Ben Verlander and Alex Curry bring you everything you need to know about Team Japan vs Team Mexico semifinals match up. Roki Sasaki will be on the mound for Team Japan.
Mexico has not faced that kind of flamethrower too often in the WBC, except in its opener against Colombia. Guillermo Zuniga was able to reach 102 mph, going two strong innings, striking out four and allowing just one hit. It was the only game Mexico has lost so far this tournament (5-4).
Mexico’s pitching will begin with Patrick Sandoval, an Angels lefty who relies on a sinker that ranked in the top 20 in run value last season (-8), and he’s also a magician whose spin on his curveball ranked in the 87th percentile in MLB last season. He’s second in the Angels rotation for a reason, behind Ohtani (that matchup in this game will be sensational).
Even if Sandoval can get through three or four innings unscathed, Japan seems to have an answer for anything. Masataka Yoshida had a couple of hard-hit balls against Italy, Kensuke Kondoh has been finding ways to be productive with extra-base hits and walks, and of course Ohtani has been his usual elite self with an OBP of .625. The mix of MLB talent and young stars from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league has blended so well that they can afford to be patient until they can pounce on one unfortunate reliever.
If you want another reason to back the favorites, Yu Darvish, one of the more world-renowned pitchers on their staff came out of the bullpen in the quarterfinals. Japan wanted to make sure there was no way Italy could mount a serious comeback. You know a pitching staff is deep when one of the most dangerous hurlers in MLB this season was the set-up man. As you’d expect, Darvish was effective, allowing one earned run in two innings of work.
Mexico has been a fantastic story, advancing as far as they ever have this WBC. However, my top tier pick to win this tournament has not given me any reason to shy away from them now, especially if the payout is favorable. Traveling across the globe doesn’t bother me. Facing a “Team of Destiny” doesn’t faze me, either.
I’m betting Japan on the moneyline.
PICK: Japan (-213 moneyline at FOX Bet at time of pick, bet $10 to win $14.69 total) to win outright
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, a sports betting analyst, a data scientist and an adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions have led him to become a cold brew aficionado. Edward previously worked in local television, notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. Follow him on Twitter @EdWithSports.
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