Japan and Cuba will go at it again tonight to see which team will advance to the semifinals. Iwakuma gets the start for Japan while Maya will toe the rubber for Cuba.
I think I've pretty much covered most of what Japan will need to do in order to win in my pre-game notes from their first meeting, but there are a couple of additional points that I wanted to mention.
Cuba will start Maya, who actually pitched 1.2 innings of very effective ball against Japan during their first meeting. He seemed to have good command of his pitches (30 pitches, 20 of which were strikes) and he was the one pitcher Japan didn't look very comfortable against.
Here's what he did against Japan during his 1.2 innings of work:
The one plus to take away from this is that they did get to see 30 pitches from Maya and that both Ogasawara and Johjima managed to fight off some pitches to extend their at bats.
(And dare I say it again, Japan needs to make the Cuba's pitchers work.)
The other thing I wanted to touch on was Frederich Cepeda. He's swinging a hot bat right now and was pretty much the one batter in the line-up that really gave Japan problems in their first match-up (3-for-4 with a double). It also appears as though Cepeda was moved into the clean-up spot against Mexico in an effort to jump-start the line-up. And we all know how that turned out: 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a run scored, and 4 RBI.
Just for the heck of it, here are the two at bats in which Cepeda didn't get a hit.
Unfortunately, these two at bats really don't show much of anything in terms of what could be done in order to contain him. So, here are his other at bats as well.
Cepeda vs Matsuzaka
Cepeda vs Fujikawa
Cepeda vs Campillo
Cepeda vs. Ortega
Looks like he likes hitting fastballs (4 of his 6 hits were off the fastball) and he likes them when they're middle of the plate in. The two hits he got off pitches other than fastballs were on changeups that appear to be middle of the plate out.
While it would be silly for me to say that Cepeda is the only player Japan needs to worry about tonight, I do think that they will have to be extremely careful with him. Getting ahead in the count to other batters hitting before him will be tantamount to their success. The very last thing you want to do is give Cuba extra free base runners through the walk.