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Cuba vs USA Odds, Picks, Predictions | World Baseball Classic Semifinal Betting Preview

Cuba vs USA Odds, Picks, Predictions | World Baseball Classic Semifinal Betting Preview article feature image

Gene Wang/Getty Images. Pictured: USA players greet Trea Turner at home plate after his grand slam on Saturday.

Cuba vs. USA

Cuba Odds +320
USA Odds -430
Over/Under 9.5 (-124 / +102)
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV Fox Sports 1
Odds via FanDuel.

Following round-robin pool play, the World Baseball Classic field of 20 was reduced to a single-elimination bracket of eight teams — appropriate for the start of March Madness.

In Tokyo, the Pool A winner, Cuba, and Pool B winner, Japan, won their quarterfinal matchups on Wednesday and Thursday. And in Miami, Mexico, and USA won their quarterfinal matchups on Friday and Saturday.

The four teams will advance to the semifinals, where Japan will play Mexico on Monday, USA will play Cuba on Sunday, and the winning teams will play in the championship game on Tuesday evening.

Below, I’ll provide my projections for Sunday’s matchup (first pitch at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1) and utilize those projections to find an actionable betting edge for the game.

Cuba’s Roster and WBC Path

Cuba advanced to the semis with a tight, 4-3 victory over Australia as a -355 favorite. The game was a true coinflip; the teams had the same number of baserunners, but Cuba went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position (7 LOB) while the Aussies went 1-for-10 (10 LOB).

Cuba was my No. 7 ranked team coming into the tournament, but faced the weakest pool and ultimately advanced on a tiebreak after each team finished 2-2. It defeated the two teams it was supposed to (Chinese Taipei and Panama) and lost to the two teams expected to be competitive with it (Italy and The Netherlands). Still, Cuba is the only one that remains.

Cuba has a chance to win its biggest international competition since 2004 when it secured Olympic gold. In previous WBC tournaments, Cuba hadn’t finished better than fifth — and in 2021, it failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time.

The mass exodus of young Cuban talent to MLB organizations has depleted the international selection pool, and only White Sox stars Luis Robert Jr. and Yoan Moncada, and some recognizable veteran names like Yoenis Cespedes, opted to participate.

Another name you might recognize is Cuba’s starter, Roenis Elias, a southpaw who returned to the big leagues last season with Seattle after a three-year injury hiatus. Elias owns a career 4.38 xFIP at the MLB level.

Elias pitched in the quarters against Australia (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K) but only tossed 40 pitches, and he should be able to give his nation at least two more innings on three days of rest.

He offers good velocity (94 mph from the left side) and a three-pitch mix (fastball/changeup/slider); still, Elias has thrown seven professional innings since 2019; and I doubt that Cuba or his new professional team, the Cubs, wants to push him too hard.

Beyond Elias, Cuba’s manager, Armando Johnson, will need to mix and match arms with a relatively shaky bullpen against USA’s All-Galaxy lineup.

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Team USA’s Roster and WBC Path

USA advanced to the semis with a dramatic 9-7 victory over Venezuela on Saturday night.

Manager Mark DeRosa put his team in a tight spot;, giving struggling reliever Daniel Bard an extra-long leash (0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 0 K) and permitting Venezuela to work its way into the lead before Trea Turner flipped the game in the late innings.

After missing Bard, DeRosa was highly aggressive with his reliever usage the rest of the way, deploying a different pitcher in every inning and with no pitcher using more than 19 bullets.

Each of those relievers — Jason Adam, Adam Ottavino, David Bednar, Devin Williams, and Ryan Pressly (combined 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K) — should be available again on Sunday, and USA will have Kendall Graveman and Brooks Raley ready to go, too, behind Adam Wainwright (4.53 xERA in 2022).

I think that Brady Singer (3.97 xERA in 2022) is USA’s best starting pitcher. Still, DeRosa prefers veterans over the younger players on the team, and Singer was shaky against Mexico (2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K).

Wainwright could be the most significant detriment to USA’s chances on Sunday; technically, I project Elias as a superior pitcher if both pitch in a short stint. So Cuba has at least a pitching advantage in the first two innings or so.

Still, USA’s lineup is offensively and defensively elite, and as we saw on Saturday, capable of putting up crooked numbers at a moment’s notice.

On Saturday, I said USA’s lineup was roughly 14% better offensively than Venezuela’s. The difference compared to Cuba is closer to 33%, worth about 1.3 runs per game against an average pitching staff. And USA’s defensive advantage adds four to five percent to the moneyline projection.

As a result, while this game should be close and competitive while the starting pitchers are involved, USA has a significant advantage in the bullpen. Its offensive firepower should eventually take over late yet again.

Projections, Price Targets, and Bets

I am firm on my price targets; that is the minimum price I need to place a bet.

Based on my projection, I bet Cuba +2.5 (+125, 0.25u) at BetMGM and Under 10 (+100, 0.25u) at the Superbook.

I considered adding some of Cuba’s moneyline, with the best price available around +350; however, I will stick with the spread unless the edge continues to grow (and moves past +400).

I will update this column and post a note on Twitter if I add any additional bets before game time.

Bets: Cuba +2.5 (+125, 0.25u) at BetMGM | Under 10 (+100, 0.25u) at Superbook

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