Japan loses the USA 2-Zero and wins the first Olympic baseball gold medal

YOKOHAMA, Japan – A Japanese all-star team fulfilled a determined national mission to win the Olympic baseball gold medal for the first time, beating the United States 2-0 behind Munetaka Murakami’s home run in the third inning on Saturday night.

Masato Morishita and four relievers combined on a six-hitter, and the Japanese men (5-0) matched the performance of the women’s softball team, which won the Americans gold for the second year in a row.

Hundreds of people who appeared to be Olympic volunteers cheered Japan in a largely empty Yokohama stadium with 34,000 spectators, some of whom wore orange Japan jerseys and matching face masks on the warm and humid night.

America, the nation that introduced baseball to Japan in 1872, finished 4-2. Teams have been denied access to all 40-man squad players and many qualified top prospects by Major League Baseball and its clubs, which has hampered the United States and other countries whose top players are in the MLB.

Murakami, the youngest player on Japan’s starting line-up at 21 but already two-time All-Star in four seasons with the Yakult Swallows of the Central League, reached out after an 85.2 mph off-speed course with a 2-2 Counting Nick Martinez (1-1). He drove the ball into the opposite field, over the 16-foot wall in the center-left, and Martinez winced as it landed in the fourth row of empty blue seats.

Japan added an undeserved run in game eight when Masataka knocked out Yoshida reliever Scott McGough and midfielder Jack Lopez heaved the ball over the plate on a mistake that allowed Tetsuto Yamada to score. The Japanese beat the US for the second time in six days after recovering in game nine to win 7-6 in 10 innings on Monday.

Morishita (2-0), a 23-year-old right-handed at Hiroshima Toyo Carp, who is reigning Rookie of the Year in the Central League, held the US over five innings on three hits, slashing five and leaving none.

Kodai Senga, a 28-year-old right-handed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific League who is viewed as a potential future MLB pitcher, followed with 98 mph heat in the sixth.

Hiromi Itoh put in seventh place and gave Tyler Austin a leadoff single in eighth place.

Suguru Iwazaki, a 30-year-old left-handed with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, relieved and knocked out Boston prospect Triston Casas, pulled Todd Frazier back in a pop-up, and got Eric Filia to land in a forceout.

Ryoji Kuribayashi, a 25-year-old first-time all-star for Hiroshima who finished a perfect ninth place for his third parade, ditched a one-out single to Nick Allen and pulled Lopez into retirement after a forceout.

Japanese players flocked to the hill, the helpers running from the bullpen. At some point, manager Atsunori Inaba was lifted into the air by players and tossed up and down the hill like on a trampoline. The players also lined up on the third baseline and bowed to their supporters.

Martinez, a 31-year-old former right-handed from Texas in his fourth season as a pitching in Japan, allowed five hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.

Former Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia was turned down in an attempt to match the performance of his mentor, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who led the US to a gold medal in baseball in 2000.

Frazier failed to add gold to the Little League World Series title, which he won with Toms River East American in New Jersey in 1998.

And while the second baseman Eddy Alvarez became only the third American and the sixth athlete overall to win medals in the Winter and Summer Games, he failed to win gold and achieved the silver he earned as a speed skater in 2014.

Baseball has only entered the Olympics for the sixth time, the first time since 2008, and was restored as the host country at the request of Japan. It has already been dropped for the Paris Games in 2024 but could return for 2028 in Los Angeles and 2032 in Brisbane, Australia.

Japan ended its major league season on July 17, allowing top players to rally for the Olympics. MLB executives scoffed at the concept of sending top players to the Olympics, saying it was impractical and uneconomical to stop the season, and many GMs reject the idea of ​​hurting players for any game other than the one who she paid, vehemently checked off.

While the Japanese team lacked MLB stars Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish, it still had enough strength to keep the resulting US squad, which was a dodgy mix of double-A prospects that nowhere near ready for the big leagues were viewed twice hitting, released Major League Veterans and Career Minor Leaguers.

The US started a line-up that, with the exception of Frazier, had a 2.9 career WAR at 25.2. The only others with major league experience were Martinez (2.1), Austin (1.0) and Alvarez (-0.2).

Alvarez hit a groundout at the end of the inning with two up in the fifth, Jamie Westbrook flew out with two up in the sixth and landed on the ground, stranding a runner on the second, in the seventh.

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