After two weeks of gripping, electric baseball on the global stage, it all comes down to tonight. The matchup of the United States and Japan isn’t exactly an unexpected one, but I’d be hard pressed to describe it as “boring” - especially after last night’s walk-off victory for Japan. And hey, we’ll have a good chance at seeing Mike Trout climb into the batter’s box against Shohei Ohtani, so what’s not to love?
The US will be starting Arizona Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly. While he may feel like an underwhelming option for a single-elimination final, Kelly has quietly been an effective starter since revitalizing his career in the KBO and coming back stateside before the 2019 season. Japan will counter with Yokohama BayStars lefty Shota Imanaga, who has worked to a strong 3.01 ERA over seven seasons in NPB - all with Yokohama. The World Baseball Classic - other than some unfortunate injuries - has been an unmitigated joy and boon for the sport, and with confirmation that it will be returning in 2026, I expect tonight to be nothing less than spectacular.
Game Time: 4:00pm PDT