The matchups are set, as Japan beat Korea last night 6-2. The game was close, 2-1 Japan until the 7th when Korea tied it up. But Japan came roaring back and scored 3 in the top of the 8th, from there it was pretty much over. The semifinals are now set, Korea plays Venezuela Saturday evening, and Japan will play the US on Sunday night at 8 pm. This is now a single elimination tournament. This is, to parallel some other current sporting event, the final four.

What to Expect from Japan

In a word, it’s pitching. Japan has the second best ERA in the tournament, behind only the Dominican Republic.daisuke_matsuzaka_bid In 7 full games, they have a TEAM ERA of 1.21. 3 of their games were shutouts. Their pitching staff has also cobbled together 54 Ks in 60 IP, and a WHIP of 0.95. One of the big reasons they’ve done so well is Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, and it looks like he might start against the US on Sunday night. That would be pretty exciting to watch, and see how they handle him.

As for Japan’s hitting, it hasn’t been anything spectacular in these 7 games. While it hasn’t been awful, their team OPS of .750 doesn’t look very good. It’s the worst of any team that made the second round except the Netherlands, and the same goes for the OBP. They’ve only hit 4 HRs in the tournament, but have stolen the most bases, with 9.

And how about the US?

The story is sort of the opposite. They had the worst ERA of any team that made the second round other than Mexico.dunn-wbc But the funny thing about ERA, as you know, is those bad numbers can come from a few bad games (11 runs to PR and 10 to Venezuela). But even without those games, they haven’t had the shut down pitching that some people might have expected. It looks like Jake Peavy will start on Sunday, so

The bats, on the other hand, are the strength of this team. They’re top 5 in almost every hitting category – H, BB, HR, SB, AVG, OBP, SLG. They’re also #2 in runs scored. They’ll need these hitters to come through because Dice-K, if you haven’t been paying attention, has been lights out. The lineup is going to be missing Pedroia and Youkilis, which is a shame because you won’t see the teammate vs. teammate matchup. But you’d probably rather have Brian Roberts, who’s faced Dice-K many times, than a newbie. After Dunn’s poor performance at first base on Wednesday, maybe Davey Johnson will think outside the box a bit for this lineup. My suggestion, just switch Dunn and Jeter. Have the Captain play first base while Dunn DH’s. With Rollins at SS, that’s the best defensive combo you can get with those 3.

One late addition to the team – Evan Longoria will replace the injured Chipper Jones for the final round.

Should be a great matchup, and your guess is as good as mine. If I’m gonna make a choice, I’ll take the US, and I’ll have them playing Korea in the finals.

By Charlie