WBC Baseball Picks and Odds: Puerto Rico at United States
by Alan Matthews - 3/11/2013
Despite a surprising loss to Team Mexico in its World Baseball Classic opener - I recommended the Mexicans on the runline in that one and also hit the “under” -- the United States avoided disaster by advancing to the second round of the WBC and open double-elimination play against Puerto Rico on Tuesday night at Marlins Park in Miami.
The Puerto Ricans advanced out of the very tough Pool C, held in San Juan. I had projected Venezuela, with its 11 MLB All-Stars, as the best value to win the WBC, but it was eliminated on Saturday in a 6-3 loss to Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic also advanced from that pool and beat Puerto Rico 4-2 on Sunday night in a game that meant nothing with both countries already having advanced. The DR was a slight second-favorite to the USA pre-tournament but looks like the best team so far at 3-0. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was 9-for-15 with five RBI in pool play to lead the Dominicans.
The loser of the USA-Puerto Rico game will play the Italy-DR loser from earlier Tuesday on Wednesday, and the loser there is eliminated; the two opening-game winners play Thursday night, and the winner there secures a spot in the tournament semifinals in San Francisco. The Pool 2 championship game is Saturday afternoon, which will help determine seeding for the semis. The top seed from the Tokyo pool will play the second seed from Miami on Sunday. The top seed from Miami will play the second seed from Tokyo on Monday. The winners then play in the final Tuesday.
Puerto Rico at United States Betting Story Lines
The Americans advanced with a 9-4 victory over Canada on Sunday in a win-or-go-home game. The United States was down 3-2 entering the top of the eighth, but the Orioles' Adam Jones hit a go-ahead two-run double in the inning. Kansas City's Eric Hosmer, an injury replacement for the Yankees' Mark Teixeira, gave the USA some breathing room with a three-run double in the ninth. Falling behind is nothing new for the United States as it obviously did in its opening 5-2 loss to Mexico and then again in a 6-2 win over the Italians. The Mets' David Wright has been the Americans' top hitter, batting .571 with a homer and five RBI. He had a grand slam in the comeback against Italy, just the second in Classic history for Team USA. Joe Mauer also has been good, hitting .462.
The USA gets a major boost with the availability of the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez, who wasn't on the first-round roster. He starts Tuesday, Toronto's R.A. Dickey will go in the second game and the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong in the third, if necessary. Starters can throw 80 pitches in this round, up from 65 in the first. It rises to 95 in the semis and finals.
Puerto Rico has been led by Giants outfielder Angel Pagan, who is hitting .538 with a steal, and Indians reserve Mike Aviles, who is hitting .333 with a homer and six RBI. Puerto Rico hasn't announced its starter as of this writing, but I presume it will be Giancarlo Alvarado. He held Spain to one hit and struck out four in four scoreless innings in Puerto Rico's opening 3-0 win. Alvarado bounced around the minors after being drafted in 1995 by the Pirates, never reaching the majors. He pitched the past three seasons in Japan.
Puerto Rico at United States Picks and Betting Predictions
At BetOnline, the United States is -225 with Puerto Rico at +195 and the total at nine. On the runline, Puerto Rico is +100 at 1.5.
On pure talent, this game is a mismatch; there are currently only 15 Puerto Ricans in the major leagues. Baseball as a participation sport in that country is sharply down in recent years. Last season, for example, 17 Puerto Ricans played in the major leagues, compared with 128 from the Dominican Republic.
This Puerto Rico team, managed by Edwin Rodriguez, is loaded with unproven pitchers, a problem exacerbated by veteran Javier Vazquez pulling out before the WBC with a knee injury. The team has a good outfield of Pagan, Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios, plus Yadier Molina behind the plate. But that's about it. Puerto Rico finished fifth overall in both the 2006 and '09 tournaments. Four years ago, it bombed the USA 11-1 in the opening game of the second round but then lost to Venezuela 2-0 and 6-5 to the USA for a spot in the semis.
I give kudos to Puerto Rico for advancing when on paper it shouldn't have, but those games were in front of the home crowd. No doubt there will be plenty of backers in Miami as well, but I can't see this as being much of a game unless Gonzalez is wild, which has occasionally been the case. Take the Americans and the under in this one, and I fully expect them and the Dominican Republic, which is a big -375 favorite against Italy, to advance to the semifinals.
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