As the quarterfinal round wrapped up on Saturday with the United States taking down Venezuela in a back-and-forth thriller, Team Mexico prepares to take on Team Japan in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
Team Mexico has proven they’ve been able to withstand early deficits and scratch their way back into games, which has been much of why they’ve made it this far. Manager Benji Gil is the current infield coach for the Los Angeles Angels, and ahead of the next round, he penciled in left-hander Patrick Sandoval as the starter.
Gil has found confidence in Sandoval, who at 26 years old is pitching in his first WBC. The lefty is coming off his best season in Major League Baseball, after posting a 2.91 ERA across 148.2 innings pitched.
Sandoval will be tasked with the first crack at Team Japan’s lineup, who have posted a collective .996 on-base plus slugging through five games in the tournament. They’ve totaled 49 walks, twice as many as the next team, a hefty contributor to their .475 team on-base percentage.
The top performers for Team Japan include Kensuke Kondoh, Lars Nootbaar, Shohei Ohtani, Masataka Yoshida, and Takumu Nakano, all of whom are left-handed hitters. With Dodgers star lefty Julio Urías on the shelf after his start in the quarterfinals, Gil’s plan will be to capitalize on Sandoval’s ability to get left-handed batters out.
In 2022, Sandoval held same-handed hitters to a .151 batting average, pitching to a 2.13 FIP in 34.2 innings. Of the 130 left-handed hitters he faced, just 6.2% reached base via the free pass.
If he’s able to provide both quality innings, and length, while keeping the game within reach, the strategy behind Sandoval getting the nod could be fantastic.
Patrick Sandoval opened WBC with a solid start against Team USA
Venezuela took the tournament by surprise when they defeated the championship favorite Dominican Republic in the opening matchup, and on the second day of Pool C matchups, Mexico completed an upset of their own.
Led by Sandoval and Washington Nationals slugger Joey Meneses, Mexico completed an 11-5 rout of USA in a shocking victory.
Sandoval pitched a gem with the pitch limits set for him, going three innings while giving up just two hits and one run.
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