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Right after Japan’s 9-three victory on Thursday, joining Cuba in the Planet Baseball Classic semifinals, the tournament now has only six teams left.

On Friday evening Mexico will play Puerto Rico in Miami for the ideal to play Japan on Monday, and then on Saturday the United States will square off against Venezuela (also in Miami) with the winner facing Cuba on Sunday.

Lengthy story quick: This factor is coming down to the wire now. It only gets far more enjoyable from right here.

So, to reset prior to the weekend’s action, here’s a appear at the important storyline for every of the six teams remaining.

Puerto Rico: Can they recover from the devastating Díaz injury?
Up till the moment Edwin Díaz collapsed underneath quite a few of his celebrating countrymen, Puerto Rico had to believe that perhaps this was their year. Right after two consecutive second-location finishes in the WBC, the group this year had thrown a ideal game, knocked out the vaunted Dominican Republic group and set up a fascinating matchup with Mexico for the ideal to go to the semifinals. It was noteworthy how nicely manager Yadier Molina, a man lengthy believed to be managerial material but undertaking this for the very first time, had set up his bullpen and roster it was all going precisely to program. And then Díaz went down. That is naturally going to be a challenge for the Mets, but it is a challenge for Puerto Rico also, and not just simply because the group is now down its closer. How does a group rebound emotionally from such whiplash? They have roughly 40 hours to figure it out.

Mexico: Is Randy Arozarena on yet another 1 of his heaters?
Randy Arozarena has established himself as an impressive MLB typical with the Rays — he did win the AL Rookie of the Year award a couple of years ago, just after all — but he’ll forever be identified for his 2020 postseason, when he generally turned into Babe Ruth and carried the Rays into the Planet Series. It confident appears like he’s back at it once again in the WBC. He is tied with Japan’s Masataka Yoshida for most RBIs in the tournament (9), and is only 3 RBIs behind the all-time record of 12, held by Wladimir Balentien (2017 Classic). He’s currently develop into a clear folk hero in Mexico, and a trip to the semifinals could elevate him to legendary status. There may possibly be practically nothing scarier than Arozarena in a quick series.

Venezuela: Is Miggy going to go out a champion?
Only two teams have been undefeated in the WBC so far: The white-hot sensation that is the Japanese group, and the Venezuelan group, which only created it to the semifinals after, back in 2009. That group featured Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu, Francisco Rodriguez, Endy Chavez, Felix Hernandez and … Miguel Cabrera, who, 14 years later, is captain of the group. He is also, as you may have heard, about to play his final season in the Majors, which signifies he’s got the chance to bookend his profession: A Planet Series title with the Marlins in his rookie season in 2003 and a WBC title with Venezuela in 2023. He has only played two games in the Classic so far, going 1-for-9, but he’ll undoubtedly have the chance to finish off his profession in style.

United States: Is Trout going to carry the USA all the way?
This is Mike Trout’s very first WBC — just after missing the 2017 championship, one thing he nevertheless regrets — and he is creating the most of it. The group captain is hitting .417 and has a homer and six RBIs, seeking for all the globe like a guy who is definitely elated, just after eight years away from higher-stakes elimination baseball, to play beneath some genuine stress. I’ve argued that this could finish up becoming The Year of Trout, and there’d be no greater way to kick that off than with Trout winning a WBC for the United States. He appears for all the globe like a man on a mission. It is one thing to see.

Cuba: Is this group — the very first 1 with MLB players — the 1 that ultimately breaks by means of?
Back in 2006, the Cuban group, which simply because of Cuban’s political circumstance at the time, had a roster complete of players just about no 1 knew outdoors the nation, completed second to Japan in the very first Planet Baseball Classic. (Future Big Leaguers on that group incorporated Yuli Gurriel and Alexei Ramirez.) This year’s group, which, for the very first time, functions players each from Cuban leagues and Big League Baseball (most notably Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert Jr.), is back in the semifinals for the very first time considering that 2006. They have hardly been dominant in this tournament — they had been aspect of that 5-group scrum at two-two in Group A — but it does not matter what you have completed so far: All Cuba has to do is win two games in a row, and they will make history as only the fourth nation to win the Planet Baseball Classic.

Japan: Can this group be stopped?
Is it attainable this Japanese group has the most dominant group in WBC history? They’re undefeated in 5 games, confident, but they’ve definitely trounced their opponents, outscoring them 47-11. They’ve got the most electric player on the planet in Shohei Ohtani, they have a folk hero (who also is placing up a .522 OBP) in Lars Nootbaar (the very first non-Japanese-born player on their roster), they’ve got a lineup complete of mashers and, oh yeah, they’re even stealing far more bases than anyone else in the tournament. They’ve also been a riveting watch from get started to finish, thanks to Tokyo Dome fans who clearly reside and die with their household country’s group. Can they bring all the joy with them on the flight to Miami? If Japan can win these final two games, they’ll have won 3 of the 5 Planet Baseball Classics. But when they speak about the very best Japanese teams … I bet they’ll speak about this 1.

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