3 Key Matchups in Tonight's World Baseball Classic Final

Pete SchauerCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2013

3 Key Matchups in Tonight's World Baseball Classic Final

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    Looking to complete an undefeated run through the 2013 World Baseball Classic and make history, the Dominican Republic will have its sights set on a perfect 8-0 when it faces Puerto Rico in the WBC finale on Tuesday night.

    The D.R. has already beaten the Puerto Ricans twice, including a 2-0 victory on March 16 that helped push the Dominicans into the semifinals.

    In front of what's likely to be a sellout crowd at AT&T Park at 8 p.m. ET, the baseball world will see a new champion crowned in the WBC.

    Here are three matchups to keep your eye on during Tuesday night's championship game.

Samuel Deduno vs. Mike Aviles

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    Mike Aviles is a big reason why Puerto Rico is playing for a WBC title, and he'll have to be at his best against one of the D.R.'s best hurlers on Tuesday night.

    Aviles leads P.R. with nine RBI and has 13 total bases to go with a .333 average and .856 OPS.

    The shortstop went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in the semifinals against Japan, as the Puerto Ricans ousted the two-time defending champs.

    He'll have his hands full against Dominican starter Samuel Deduno, who owns a 1.13 ERA and a team-leading 12 strikeouts in eight innings pitched during the Classic.

    Deduno has yet to pitch against Puerto Rico during the tournament, which makes the matchup with Aviles one to keep your eyes on.

Robinson Cano vs. Puerto Rican Pitching

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    There's no hotter hitter in the WBC than New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.

    As the MVP of the first two rounds, Cano has collected the most hits in the tournament (15) and is sporting a .517 average to go with two homers, six RBI and 25 total bases.

    In two games against Puerto Rico during the WBC, Cano is 4-for-9 with a home run and has been a thorn in the side of P.R. pitchers.

    The D.R. offense has a ton of firepower—with the likes of Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Carlos Santana—but make no mistake about it: Robinson Cano is the leader.

    As Cano goes, so does the D.R. offense, and I'd say they've certainly been successful throughout the tournament.

Fernando Rodney vs. Puerto Rico Hitters

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    What Robinson Cano has been to the offense for the D.R., Fernando Rodney has been to the pitching staff.

    As the closer for the D.R., Rodney has been absolutely dominant, recording six saves and not surrendering a run for the entire WBC.

    While he has allowed three walks in 6.1 innings pitched, Rodney also has six strikeouts and has surrendered just one hit.

    Rodney has been especially dominant against Puerto Rico, earning saves in both appearances and allowing just one hit in his two appearances against them.

    If the Dominicans hold a lead entering the ninth inning, this one's all but over with Rodney toeing the rubber against a P.R. lineup that has struggled against him.

     

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