Baseball’s return at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a triumphant one for the host nation.
Japan took home gold with a 2-0 win over Team USA at the Yokohama Stadium on Saturday. The victory capped off an undefeated tournament run and gave the country its first Olympic gold medal in the sport.
The U.S., meanwhile, picked up its second straight Olympic baseball medal. Team USA won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the last Games to hold a baseball tournament. The U.S. now has one gold, one silver and two bronzes all time.
Even with the loss, Eddy Alvarez officially became the third American and sixth Olympian ever to medal at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Alvarez, who won silver in the 2014 Sochi Olympics in short track, joined an exclusive club that also includes Eddie Eagan (boxing in 1920, bobsled in 1932) and Lauryn Williams (track and field in 2004 and 2012, bobsled in 2014).
The host nation struck first on Saturday. Munetaka Murakami got Japan on the board in the third inning with a solo home run against Team USA starter Nick Martinez.
Martinez faced trouble in the fourth as well as Japan loaded the bases with one out. He got the U.S. out of the inning unscathed, though, by forcing a fielder’s choice and striking out Ryosuke Kikuchi.
Martinez’s final line was six innings, five hits, one earned run and seven strikeouts.
While Martinez kept Team USA in the game, the U.S. bats had no answer for Japan’s pitching.
The U.S. got runners to first and second with two outs in the fifth, but Japanese starter Masato Morishita forced Alvarez into an inning-ending groundout. Morishita finished the night with five strikeouts and three hits allowed across five scoreless innings.
The U.S. got runners to first and second again in the sixth, but reliever Koudai Senga got Jaime Westbrook to pop out in foul territory and end the inning.
Team USA got even closer to its first run in the top of the seventh. Nick Allen hit a one-out double and made it to third on a groundout, but he was stranded as Alvarez rolled a ball to first base as Japan held onto its 1-0 lead.
Japan tacked on its second run in the bottom of the eighth following a throwing error from center fielder Jack Lopez.
A two-out single in the top of the ninth from Nick Allen brought the potential tying run to the plate for the U.S. Ryoji Kuribayashi got Lopez to hit into a game-ending fielder’s choice in the next at-bat, securing gold for Japan.
The U.S. lost to Japan 7-6 in 10 innings on Monday for the team’s lone loss of the Games. That complicated the road to the final for Team USA, which had to defeat the Dominican Republic and defending 2008 champion South Korea to reach the gold medal game.
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