World Baseball Classic final odds, prediction: Who’s favored, USA or Japan?

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United States' Trea Turner (8) celebrates at home plate after hitting a home run scoring Jeff McNeil (1) and Will Smith (16) during the sixth inning of a World Baseball Classic game against Cuba, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The World Baseball Classic has produced plenty of drama over the past two weeks, and the end result is a final between two world heavyweights: the United States and Japan. But who do the odds favor in such a matchup?

At FanDuel Sportsbook, the United States is a -142 favorite as of Tuesday afternoon, with Japan priced at +116.

On the run line, U.S. -1½ runs is priced at +114, with Japan +1½ at -140. The over/under is 10½ runs, with a slight odds tilt to the under at -120.

It’s fair to say the U.S. will have the edge in offense. Their strong lineup rallied to beat Venezuela 9-7 in the quarterfinals and then produced 14 runs in a semifinal rout of Cuba, with No. 9 hitter Trea Turner of the Philadelphia Phillies clubbing four home runs in the tournament.

But Japan has a clear pitching edge. Five-time All-Star Yu Darvish will start the game, with two-way superstar and 2021 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani available in relief. What remains to be seen is whether Japan will get a boost from its emotional comeback victory Monday night against Mexico in the semifinals, or whether that effort will have a draining effect.

The U.S. lineup — the top three of Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt are all former MVPs — is unmatched, but Japan has some heavy hitters of its own, with Ohtani, Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox and Nippon Professional Baseball slugger Munetaka Murakami.

When it comes down to it, this one is pretty tough to call. But momentum is big in baseball, and so is starting pitching. Japan can get out to a lead here and put some pressure on the favored U.S., with Ohtani perhaps coming on to close the Americans out.

And if we’re getting better than even money, even if you consider this game to be a toss-up, the best bet is clear.

The pick: Japan (+116)

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