Photo courtesy of Samurai Japan

OSAKA, Japan — The top men’s national baseball teams of world No. 1 Japan and No. 6 Mexico will open their two-game series this evening (Saturday, 9 March) at 7:00 p.m local time at the Kyocera Dome Osaka, in a key test ahead of November’s flagship WBSC Premier12, a Tokyo 2020 Olympic direct qualifier.

Japan’s roster is backed by Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) young stars, while the Mexican squad is loaded with top talent from the Mexican Baseball League (LMB).

Japan skipper Atsunori Inaba will send Yokohama DeNA BayStars left-handed starter Shōta Imanaga to the mound, while Mexico manager Dan Firova will counter with right-hander Luis Mendoza, who played both in MLB and NPB.

“I’m going to pitch like it’s a final,” Mendoza said.

“Mexico is a team that will be a competitor in the Premier12 and potentially the Olympic Games,” said Inaba.

“We’re not just here to play, we’re here to compete,” said Firova. “We’re here for a big result…we know Japan is a team that’s very fast…we are ready.”

The series will be broadcast nationally in Japan by TV Asahi for Game 1 and TBS for Game 2, together with Japan’s largest cable sports network J Sports (3). Mexico’s leading sports network, Televisa Deportes (TDN), will broadcast the series, while Radio Centro and Rasa Deportes will transmit the games live on the radio.

The last time these two nations faced each other was in the Final the U-23 Baseball World Cup last October, with Mexico defeating Japan in 10 innings to win their first-ever official world championship in the sport of baseball.

The international matches in Osaka are duly sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and will impact the WBSC World Rankings.