World Baseball Classic: Team Israel Hopes to Keep Cinderella Dream Alive in Matchup Against Japan

A win over the host team would force a tiebreaker for the right to play in the semifinals.

Israeli team players at the opening ceremony a game at the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, March 13, 2017.
Israeli team players at the opening ceremony a game at the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, March 13, 2017. Koji Sasahara/AP

Team Israel faces Japan at noon on Wednesday, the last day of the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals. Earlier Wednesday, Netherlands defeated Cuba 14-1 at the Tokyo Dome. The game was terminated after seven innings under the World Baseball Classic's early termination rule.

Cuba is now out of the running for a semifinals berth with a 0-3 record in the bracket. The Netherlands has a 2-1 record, after losing to Japan 8-6 in extra innings on Sunday before coming back Monday to rout Israel 12-2.

With Japan's Tuesday victory over Cuba 8-5, the team enters the Israel game with a 2-0 record (5-0 in WBC play). The top two teams from this bracket will face the top two teams from the San Diego round in the semifinals at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium. 

Team Israel, still the Cinderella story of the World Baseball Classic, takes the field with a 1-1 record. Last-to-qualify Israel surprised international baseball fans with a 3-0 sweep of its first bracket and a win over Cuba to open this round. However, the fairy tale faltered as the team, comprised mostly of Jewish minor league players from the U.S., fell to the Netherlands in a crushing 12-2 decision under the World Baseball Classic's early termination or mercy rule.

Closer-until-now Josh Zeid will start for Israel. The right-hander has earned two saves and has not allowed any runs.

Japan's Kodai Senga will be first on the mound. Senga started against Australia in the first round and also pitched two innings against the Netherlands.

Wednesday's game is a must-win for Israel to move on to the semifinals. Underdog Israel and three-time WBC semifinalist Japan would then both have 2-1 records in the Pool E bracket, as does Netherlands. 

In the event that two teams are tied for the second-strongest record, they will face off in an elimination tie breaker, with the winner of that game moving into the semifinals.

In the event that three teams are tied for the slot, the tournament's rather Byzantine tiebreaker rules will apply. Tied teams will be ranked according to fewest runs allowed divided by the number of innings (including partial innings) played. The bottom two teams will play a tiebreaker game on Thursday to determine the second contender in the semifinals from this bracket. The scoring gap in Israel's loss to the Dutch will haunt the team, running up its average runs allowed.