One and possibly two spots in the semifinals will be settled tonight in this rematch of a first round game that Korea won 3-2 in the Tokyo Dome.
Korea's starting pitcher will likely be Chan Ho Park, who has three saves in the tournament. He may not pitch much to stay ready for the semis. Sidearmer/submariner Shunsuke Watanabe will start for Japan.
The Koreans have yet to lose in the tournament, winning their first five games, including a surprising 7-3 win over the USA on Monday. Japan recovered from a disappointing and controversial loss to the USA on Sunday 4-3 to beat Mexico 6-1.
Here are the scenarios:
If Korea wins, it goes on to the semifinals and:
1) The USA advances to the semifinals with a win over Mexico Thursday
2) Japan advances if Mexico beats the USA and the USA allows more than one run to Mexico in a nine-inning game.
3) There seems to be a scenario where Mexico can win if they hold the U.S. scoreless for 13 innings, although that math seems to not add up.
If Japan wins:
1) The USA advances to the semis if it beats Mexico AND if Japan scores more than six or seven runs (your tiebreaker numbers may vary, actual tiebreaker numbers may not match actual performance) against Korea. Japan and the USA would be semifinalists.
2) Korea and Japan both advance to the semifinals if Japan wins by scoring seven runs or fewer. The USA-Mexico game would be just for show.
The whole problem about relying on Japan to score a lot of runs is that Korea has given up 7 runs in five games so far. And both teams are likely to rely on one-run strategies such as sacrifices and stolen bases. Japan had three sacrifices against Mexico and leads the WBC in stolen bases with 10.
Korea's recipe for victory has been, get a guy on base for Seong-Yeop Lee, wait for a homer and then pitch well and catch every batted ball. Japan's hitting has come and gone at times and its defense appears a little shakier than Korea's. However, the game is filled with emotion, so the outcome is hard to predict.
I will be at that game, so I hope everybody enjoys the game! I hope to have a full report for you Thursday or Friday with some photos. Most likely I will just be heading to bed once I get home tonight.