USA vs Japan World Baseball Classic Predictions, Picks, Odds: Offenses Waste No Time

Team USA's path to a WBC repeat will have to go through Japan, who is coming off a magnificent comeback win over Mexico. With neither country putting out their best starting pitcher, our WBC betting picks expect runs early.

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2023 12:54 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

Following last night’s epic come-back walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth, undefeated Japan will look to carry that momentum into the World Baseball Classic finals tonight vs. Team USA, who enter as slight -125 away favorites. 

Merrill Kelly will make his second start of the tournament and oppose Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga, who will be making his third appearance but first start. 

With no Shohei Ohtani starting for Japan, can we expect both offenses to continue to put up runs in what is a favorable matchup for both offenses, especially early?

Find out where my best bets lie in my WBC betting picks and predictions for this matchup between USA and Japan.

USA vs Japan odds: Moneyline, run line, Over/Under

USA Japan
-125 Moneyline +105
-1.5 (+120) Run line +1.5 (-140)
Over 10 (-115) Total Under 10 (-105)

Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of March 21, 2023.

USA vs Japan picks and predictions

With the mystery of Shohei Ohtani’s pitching status later in this game, early runs are much more probable and the pitching matchups favor both of the best offensive lineups in the tournament. 

Japan led all nations in the majority of hitting categories, but the Americans are right behind them and have seen better pitching on their path to the finals.

This is a game that features possibly five of the best hitters in baseball in Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Trea Turner. Add in some suspect starting pitching thanks to the tournament format, and early runs could be very probable.

Japan is starting left-hander Shota Imanaga who will see a ton of right-handed power in this U.S. lineup, while Merrill Kelly will face a one-through-four from Japan that's hitting over .400 combined.

The Japanese also looked much better hitting right-handed pitching yesterday, as left-hander Patrick Sandoval went 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball before Japan's bats tagged the Mexican bullpen for six runs. 

Looking at the environment, loanDepot Park plays relatively neutral compared to other MLB parks in terms of runs and home runs, but thanks to a deep alley in right-center field — AKA Ohtani town — this park plays as the fourth-best triple park in baseball. With the combinations of speed and contact that both teams possess, don’t be surprised by some doubles that might be stretched into a triple or two. 

The total is starting to take on some money — moving a full run in some places — and I think a lot of that has to do with the starting pitching matchup and early blueprint for both teams. Neither side would start Kelly or Imanaga if they had their choice and leashes could be short.  

These are the two-best hitting teams in the tournament and neither side is starting their best pitcher. 

My best bet: First five innings Over 5.0 (-130 at bet365)

Best WBC bonuses

Looking to bet on some World Baseball Classic action? Here are two of the best bonuses* available:

A) Japan to win and Over 9.5 total runs BOOSTED to +400 at Betway! Bet Now

B) New users at DraftKings can bet $5 and get $200 in free bets! Sign Up Now

*Eligible USA locations only. Also, check out our full list of best sportsbook promotions for 2023.
21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

USA vs Japan moneyline analysis

Both nations have used dramatic comebacks in the elimination rounds to reach the finals, but only the Japanese have a chance to run the table and go a perfect 7-0.

The weakest part of this lineup had been third baseman and two-time MVP Munetaka Murakami, who walked off the game last night. If he gets going, this is a dangerous offense vs. a mediocre American pitching staff. 

From the No. 1 hitter (Lars Nootbarr) to the clean-up hitter (Boston’s Masataka Yoshida), the top of this order is hitting over .400, led by Shohei Ohtani with a .450 average. Trea Turner might be leading the tournament in home runs with four, but he’s hitting out of the nine-hole still, and in its current form, the Japanese lineup is just as good as the Americans'.

There is also the concern about third baseman Nolan Arenado not playing after taking a pitch off the hand vs. Cuba which came back negative after X-rays. He’s leading the team in AVG. (.391), hitting clean-up, and playing golf-glove defense at third. Bobby Witt is an elite talent, but the drop-off is worth a few points if Arenado sits or isn’t at 100%. 

The ball hit his throwing hand. It’s the worst of the two to hit — especially for hitting — and that’s why Japanese shortstop Sosuke Genda can still hit (or bunt) with a broken finger.

Both offenses can put up runs tonight in this pitching matchup, but I like the piggy-back of Imanaga and Yu Darvish vs. Merrill Kelly — who was less than impressive vs. Colombia — and the U.S. bullpen. The Americans are also missing some multi-inning pitchers, with Lance Lynn and Miles Mikolas unavailable. 

Just like last night, this game will come down to the late innings. Considering the price, Ohtani possibly pitching late, the Arenado injury, and Team USA likely needing at least five arms to finish this game, I’m on Japan at +106 at FanDuel. Home-field advantage might be overvalued here in Miami.  

USA vs Japan Over/Under analysis

Japan hasn't faced the level of pitchings the Americans have, but we can't discredit this Japanese lineup. Japan has scored at least six runs in all six wins, leads the tournament in OPS (.986), doubles (16), RBI (52), walks (56), and OBP (.471).

The U.S. side also has a decent matchup vs. lefty pitcher Imanaga. There are some right-handed thumpers in the “visiting” lineup and from ninth (Trea Turner) to fourth (Arenado), the Americans sport five right-handed bats which also included Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt. 

Team USA should be able to get some traffic vs. a starter who is constantly in the zone with a high strike percentage.

Yu Darvish might see the ball next for Japan, and he hasn’t been sharp either with four runs (three earned) over four innings in two appearances with just two strikeouts.  

The U.S. could go three times through the order before a possible Ohtani sighting in the later innings, and if the two-way star is actually kept off the mound, it would favor the Over and might be worth somewhere between a half and a full run.

Arenado’s bat can be replaced in the lineup, but his defense cannot, which also favors the Over as Japan puts a ton of balls in play and gets plenty of traffic on the bases. 

We’re already seeing this total move from 9.5 in some places to 10.5. Both teams can put up crooked numbers early and if Ohtani doesn’t pitch, two-way, full-game scoring is very possible.  

USA vs Japan game info

Location: loanDepot Park, Miami, FL
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2023
First pitch: 7:00 p.m. ET

USA vs Japan starting pitchers

Merrill Kelly: This will be Kelly’s second start of the tournament after he threw three innings of two-run ball in pool play vs. Colombia, where he allowed four hits, two walks, and one punchout over 61 pitches. The right-hander threw just 59% of pitches for strikes after finishing last season with a 65% strike rate.

Shota Imanaga: Imanaga will make his third appearance and first start of the tournament. The lefty has allowed just one run over four innings of work where he’s given up four hits and struck out five. He’s walked zero batters and thrown 70% of his pitches for strikes. He posted a 2.26 ERA in Japan last season where he struck out less than a batter an inning.

Pages related to this topic

Popular Content

Legal Canadian sports betting

Best Canadian betting sites Ontario sports betting
Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo