Australia and Cuba square off in Tokyo, with the winner advancing to the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Both teams are 1-1 entering Thursday's matchup at 10 p.m. ET at the Tokyo Dome, live on MLB.TV. The winner will advance to Pool E, along with undefeated Japan (2-0), which ends pool-play action Friday against China (0-2).
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Right-hander Lazaro Blanco is scheduled to take the ball for Cuba, while Australia has yet to announce its starting pitcher.
Both teams dropped their opener to Japan before rebounding to defeat China. Australia beat China, 11-0, while Cuba earned a 6-0 win.
The Aussies are looking to advance out of the first round for the first time in their World Baseball Classic history, while Cuba is looking to ensure its fourth consecutive second-round Classic appearance.
3 things to watch for
• Cuba certainly is the more historically impressive baseball country, but Australia is no doubt improving. The Aussies entered the tournament with a 1-8 record and scored only two runs in 2013, so this Classic should be seen as progress regardless of Thursday's outcome.
• Cuban outfielder Alfredo Despaigne has won three National Series MVP Awards and also has a following in Japan, where he'll play for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this upcoming season.
• Two young Cuban players have big-time baseball ties. Victor Mesa, a speedy 20-year-old outfielder, is the son of Cuba's 2013 Classic manager Victor Mesa. The other is Yoelqui Cespedes, the 19-year-old half-brother of Mets star Yoenis Cespedes.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.