2023 World Baseball Classic best bets for Wednesday, March 15: Venezuela remains undefeated

Venezuela center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (42) runs toward home plate during the fourth inning against Nicaragua at LoanDepot Park.
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Wednesday marks the end to pool play at the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of good games. In fact, it’s the opposite. Venezuela is looking to stay undefeated in pool play as it battles Israel at 12:00 pm ET. That is followed by Mexico and Canada at 3:00 pm ET; whoever wins that game moves on, while the loser goes home. It’s the same situation for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic at 7:00 pm ET, with those rivals facing off in a win-and-in game. The night caps off with the United States taking on Colombia, and if the USA wins, they are in and Colombia is relegated to qualifiers.

It’s a huge night in the World Baseball Classic, and I’ve started 2-0 this week after hitting my Dominican Republic -6.5 pick yesterday, so let’s get into my best bet for today.

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Venezuela vs Israel predictions World Baseball Classic 2023: Venezuela -5.5 (-135)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing

It’s been a rough tournament at the plate for Israel. Through 3 games Israel ranks last in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. They are hitting just .105 as a team and have collected 1 hit in their last 15 innings. Their week started with Puerto Rico throwing a perfect game and walking them off in the 8th inning, and their struggles at the plate continued on Tuesday as they lost 10-0 to the Dominican Republic in 7 innings. In those 2 losses, Israel is 1-for-46 (.022) with 22 strikeouts. Their final game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic will be against the team that won Pool D, so Israel can’t catch a break. And to make matters worse, Venezuela will be starting Jesus Luzardo.

Luzardo had an excellent 2022 campaign for the Miami Marlins. He posted a 3.32 ERA with a 3.39 xERA and an eye-catching 30% strikeout rate in 100.1 innings. Opponents had a .191 batting average against Luzardo, and the main reason for that was his devastating slider. The lefty has an excellent arsenal that he balances very well, as his slider is his most common pitch, and he only threw it 30.1% of the time last season. Expect a heavy dose of sliders, fastballs and changeups to the slumping Israel lineup.

Israel will start Robert Stock, a former MLB pitcher who pitched in the KBO last season. Stock has been plagued with control problems his entire career, which was a big reason for not finding a job in the MLB in 2022. Looking at his arsenal, Stock relies on his fastball to a fault. In the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, Stock threw his fastball for over 60% of his pitches, and opponents had an average batting average of .356. Admittedly, his fastball is lively at 96 MPH — but this Venezuelan roster will not let many fastballs go by. They should pounce on his fastball and force Israel into their struggling bullpen far earlier than Ian Kinsler would have hoped. Israel has lost 10-0 in back-to-back games and Venezuela is more than capable of repeating that.

Check out my World Baseball Classic preview for team analysis and best bets

Puerto Rico vs Dominican Republic predictions World Baseball Classic 2023: Puerto Rico +2.5 (+105)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing

Could we have asked for a better elimination game? Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are 2-1 and fighting for the runner-up spot in Pool D. For their final game in pool play, Puerto Rico will start Dominic Hamel, and the DR will look to Johnny Cueto. Hamel is a 24-year-old that split his 2022 season in Single-A and High-A, while Cueto completed his 15th MLB season with the White Sox.

Cueto was solid in 2022 with a 3.35 ERA, but his 4.02 xERA and high opponent batting average are worrisome. Opponents had a .267 batting average against Cueto as his fastball continues to lose velocity as he’s gotten older. The MLB veteran will be throwing a lot of junk mixed with his ever-changing windup to throw off the hitters’ timing. But Cueto has a tough task in front of him of limiting a lineup that has Francisco Lindor, Kiké Hernandez, MJ Melendez and Emmanuel Rivera. The Puerto Rico lineup has produced 6, 9 and 10 runs this tournament, so I’m confident they can score a few runs against Cueto.

The Puerto Rico bullpen has been exceptional through their 3 games. They have allowed 3 total runs to Nicaragua, Venezuela and Israel, and they will be well-rested since they had an off day on Tuesday. Although the Dominican Republic team is stacked, they are not living up to their complete potential right now. I anticipate that they will beat Puerto Rico, but it won’t be by a large margin.

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United States vs Colombia predictions World Baseball Classic 2023: United States team total under 9.5 (-120)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing

It was a slow start to the tournament for the United States, but they woke up against Canada. That game lasted just 7 innings as the United States won 12-1, which included scoring 9 runs in the first inning. But before that game, they had scored 6 against Great Britain and 5 against Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, their lineup is great, but any time I can get a team total to be 9.5 runs in a baseball game, the under is worth a look. The United States will be facing Luis De Avila, a 21-year-old who spent the 2022 season in High-A. The lefty will likely not have the longest leash since Colombia needs to win this game which benefits the under since their bullpen has been decent this tournament. Colombia has allowed 4, 5 and 7 runs through 3 games.

Merrill Kelly will get the start for the United States. The MLB veteran will be pitching in the comforts of home as Kelly plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. While that could seem like a benefit to the United States, Kelly was actually more hittable at home than on the road in the 2022 MLB season. Opponents had a higher batting average and on-base percentage against Kelly at Chase Field than when the Diamondbacks were on the road. And the Colombia lineup is no walk in the park, as they scored 10 runs in the first 2 games. Harold Ramirez, Gio Urshela and Jorge Alfaro make up a strong top 3 in the order, so don’t expect another 12-1 thrashing by the United States. I see a score around 7-2, so backing the United States to have less than double-digit runs is worth a shot.

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