On Thursday night, the 2013 WBC will feature Team U.S.A. vs. the Dominican Republic, a modern day version of Clash of the Titans.
Led by the bat of David Wright and the dominant performance by starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, Team U.S.A. defeated Puerto Rico 7-1 on Tuesday. The win earned them the right to play the Dominican Republic in a battle that will surely be epic.
The winner gets an automatic berth in the WBC semifinals. The loser will play the winner of the Puerto Rico-Italy game being played on Wednesday.
Here is a breakdown of the starting lineups for each team along with predictions.
Note: All statistics courtesy of worldbaseballclassic.com.
SS Jose Reyes (.316 BA, 1 HR, 1 RBI, .824 OPS)
DH Erick Aybar (.231, 0, 0, .462)
2B Robinson Cano (.632, 2, 6, 1.789)
1B Edwin Encarnacion (.308, 0, 3, .782)
3B Hanley Ramirez (.182, 1, 2, .866)
RF Nelson Cruz (.412, 0, 6, .915)
C Carlos Santana (.182, 1, 2, .925)
LF Ricardo Nanita (.091, 0, 1, .258)
CF Alejandro De Aza (.308, 0, 3, .862)
The Dominican Republic is hitting .319 as a team and averaging six runs per game thus far. Cano has been the driving force, leading the comeback against Italy on Tuesday with three hits and a home run.
The only hole in the lineup is in left field with Nanita hitting just .091.
This is a team that can bash with the best of them at any time. With five home runs in four games to this point, the Dominicans haven't fully unleashed their power—Cano excluded—and with this lineup it's always a threat.
SS Jimmy Rollins (.368, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .821)
2B Brandon Phillips (.222, 0, 1, .500)
LF Ryan Braun (.353, 0, 0, .833)
DH Joe Mauer (.429, 0, 2, 1.127)
3B David Wright (.438, 1, 10, 1.276)
RF Giancarlo Stanton (.200, 0, 0, .858)
CF Adam Jones (.214, 0, 4, .580)
C J.P. Arencibia (.000, 0, 0, .000)
1B Eric Hosmer (.222, 0, 4, .500)
It's assumed that Arencibia will be in the lineup on Thursday to catch R.A. Dickey's knuckler. However, with an 0-for-2 performance with two strikeouts in the Round 1 loss to Canada, it wouldn't surprise me if Team U.S.A. manager Joe Torre opted to go with Jonathan Lucroy or Mauer behind the plate.
Team U.S.A. has hit .306 in the tournament, scoring six runs per game. However, their .224 average with runners in scoring position is a bit troublesome. On Tuesday against Puerto Rico, the Americans had numerous chances to put the game away early. They ended up hitting 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and leaving 12 men on base.
David Wright has been the clear star. It was his grand slam against Italy in Round 1 that woke up a slumbering U.S.A. offense, and he's continued to excel on the grand stage.
Two hits from Stanton in front of his home crowd on Tuesday was encouraging as well.
Wright's bases-clearing home run against Italy has been the only long ball hit by Team U.S.A. thus far. At spacious Marlins Park that home run drought could continue on Thursday.
Thanks to an extra day off, the Dominican Republic will likely start Samuel Deduno against Team U.S.A. in the winner's bracket game on Thursday at Marlins Park.
Deduno looked sharp in beating Spain last Saturday in Pool C play. He gave up just four hits with five strikeouts and no walks in picking up the victory.
Pitching on normal rest on Thursday, Deduno will face a Team U.S.A. lineup that has hit .306 thus far in their four games.
The key for Deduno will be maintaining his command. While he was successful in doing so against Spain, control has always been his weakness. Last season for the Minnesota Twins, Deduno posted a 6.0 BB/9 rate.
Early walks for Team U.S.A. will lead to early trouble for Deduno. He'll need to attack the strike zone early and keep pounding it.
Deduno doesn't have to be completely lights out—he just needs to keep the Dominican Republic close and get the ball to his rested bullpen.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey will be making his second start of the WBC against the Dominican Republic.
Dickey will be looking for a better result—he gave up four runs on six hits in four innings in his loss to Mexico last week.
Dickey has pitched at Marlins Park three times, posting a 2-0 record and 2.14 ERA. Included among those starts was a masterful five-hit shutout against the Marlins on Aug. 31.
Dickey has pitched well in domed stadiums should the roof on Marlins Park be closed for Thursday's game. He also threw a one-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays at the domed Tropicana Field last year as well.
Dickey's famed knuckleball came in flat in the early going of last week's game against Mexico. He'll need to keep it dancing against the vaunted Dominican Republic lineup.
While both Team U.S.A. and the Dominican Republic feature star-studded lineups, this epic battle could be decided by pitching.
Both teams feature a 3.00 ERA through their first four contests. Team U.S.A.'s bullpen has been simply outstanding with a 2.00 ERA. The Dominican Republic bullpen has certainly held their own as well with a 2.73 ERA.
Closer Fernando Rodney has appeared in all four games for the Dominicans without giving up a hit. Team U.S.A. closer Craig Kimbrel has been just as nasty, allowing just one hit in his two appearances.
Team U.S.A. will need more production from the bottom half of its order, especially if Arencibia is catching for R.A. Dickey.
This game could be decided by matchups in the later innings. With the added days rest, each bullpen will be well-rested, so expect both managers to play the matchup game in order to gain whatever advantage they can.
While many may be expecting a slugfest, this well could be game that's tight throughout and decided in the late innings.
Prediction: Team U.S.A. over the Dominican Republic, 4-3.
If Dickey's knuckleball is floating early, the Dominican offense could be held in check. Dominican starter Samuel Deduno will need to harness his command once again as well. Bullpens will decide this outcome, and I believe that Team U.S.A. ekes it out in a tightly-fought contest.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.