Live from PETCO Park! This game is also being shown on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. And some network in Japan too. And I think Cuba is hijacking the ESPN signal. Joe Morgan could be America's newest weapon in the propaganda war!
The starting pitchers for tonight's game weren't announced ahead of time, but most likely Sadaharu Oh will send hard-throwing Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound. Cuba will likely start Ormari Romero or Vicyohandry Odelin.
Whoever is the starting pitcher may not matter much as both managers (Oh and Cuban manger Higinio Velez) will not hestitate to go to the bullpen if either starter appears to be having a bad day. Velez had his bullpen up pretty much all the time during the semifinal with the Dominican Republic. Oh has Shunsuke Watanabe available to pitch in the final and he's thrown two tough good games against Korea in the tournament.
Matsuzaka pitched against Cuba in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and picked up a win with 8 1/3 strong innings. Odelin picked up the loss in that game. Japan hit three home runs in that game.
The only major leaguer who will be starting in the game is Ichiro Suzuki, but don't think that the level of play will be AAA or AA. This should be a well-played, close game.
Cuba survived a battle of errors against the Dominican Republic in a 3-1 win Saturday. Cuba had 12 hits (all singles) and took advantage of an Adrian Beltre error for the win. As Velez said before the game, it was a battle between the hombres against the nombres. Perhaps this will be a matchup between the namae and otoko, which unfortunately doesn't rhyme.
Japan avenged two earlier losses to Korea with a 6-0 win highlighted by a 2-run pinch homer by Kosuke Fukudome and another solo homer by Hitoshi Tamura. Koji Uehara completely shut down the Korean attack.
In the USA, the final was supposed to be a chance to see Roger Clemens staring down Albert Pujols. Instead, it will be a chance for Americans to see just how hard Daisuke Matsuzaka can throw. And how well the mostly unknown Cuban hitters will fare.
It's just one game and predicting what can happen in one baseball game is a fool's errand.
That said, I think Japan will win. Please feel free to call me a fool after the game is over. Or before it starts if it makes you happy.
Game time temps should be in the high 50s in San Diego. A 10% chance of rain is forecast.
Japan scores four in the first without hitting the ball out of the infield. They stretch the lead to 6-1, but Cuba rallies to make it 6-5 as Cuba takes advantage of some Japanese errors. But Japan scores four in the ninth to break open the game.