The United States and Japan had a tense battle in the final game of the World Baseball Classic. With one out, Japan was down by two runs. But then, with a runner on second, Japan’s player hit a home run to win the game and take home the gold.
The is baseball in the olympics is a question that has been on the mind of many people. In 2021, Japan will host the Olympics and it will be interesting to see if they can get gold in baseball.
Imagine the pleasure and happiness if Yokohama Baseball Stadium had been packed with cheering, flag-waving fans instead of empty seats. We heard the echo of the foul-ball buzzer instead of shouts.
In Japan, baseball is almost a national religion, with the annual Koshien high school tournament attracting more than half of all television viewers and top players gaining instant celebrity. While the Olympic baseball competition is mostly ignored in the United States, where the emphasis is on gymnasts, swimmers, and track and field athletes, Japanese supporters anticipated their nation to win gold. Silver would not be a cause for joy.
The home team performed well. In the gold-medal game, a team of Japanese All-Stars defeated a motley U.S. squad of baseball lifers and minor leaguers 2-0 to earn Japan’s first Olympic gold medal. The Central and Pacific leagues suspended their schedules to enable the greatest players to participate. Five Japanese pitchers put on a clinic, allowing just six hits to the American side. Only one extra-base hit and one runner reached third base for the United States.
Masato Morishita, a 23-year-old starter for the Hiroshima Carp, was the day’s greatest hero for Japan. Morishita, the Central League’s rookie of the year in 2020, shut down the American lineup with five scoreless innings, throwing a big, old-school, slow curveball, a moving fastball that darted in on right-handed batters, and a pause in his delivery, where he would pause with his front knee frozen in midair. Pressure? Morishita was dressed in a gold glove.
I believe that the color of the glove will become very popular among Japanese children.
It was an important day for Japan’s rising stars.
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Nick Martinez of the United States, who has been pitching in Japan since 2018 after four years with the Texas Rangers, was engaged in a terrific pitcher’s duel with Morishita. With a force at home and a three-pitch strikeout in the fourth inning, he escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam, shouting and pumping his fist. In the fifth inning, he struck out the side.
Munetaka Murakami, 21, blasted an opposite-field home ball in the third inning that barely cleared the fence in left-center, forcing him to leave after six innings, trailing 1-0. Murakami is already in his fourth season with the Yakult Swallows, despite his youth. In 2019, he hit 36 home runs, batted.307 in 2020 with 28 home runs, and has 26 in 83 games this season. As he circled the bases, the stadium was silent, but a roar reverberated across Japan. Scouts in the United States will be keeping a close eye on him.
Japan’s bullpen was empty after Morishita’s departure. Hiromi Itoh, a 23-year-old rookie with the Nippon Ham Fighters who started the regular season but got the seventh inning in this game, was the second reliever. He put a generous dose of rosin to his fingers on a hot evening in Yokohama, and with each pitch, a puff of dust blew off the ball.
Itoh got one of the game’s biggest outs. Itoh faced leadoff batter Eddy Alvarez with two outs and A’s prospect Nick Allen on third. Alvarez, 31, earned a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as part of the US speedskating relay team. He carried the American flag in the opening ceremonies alongside basketball icon Sue Bird. When the United States defeated South Korea in the gold-medal game, Alvarez burst into tears, delighted at being the sixth athlete to win medals in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. To stop the danger, Alvarez bounced out to first.
Indeed, in comparison to the star-studded Japanese teams or the men’s and women’s U.S. basketball rosters, the U.S. Olympic baseball squad was mainly made up of players like Alvarez, the Bad News Bears, and Amanda Wurlitzer.
Oh, the American side had its own All-Stars — former All-Stars, like Todd Frazier, the 35-year-old veteran who was dismissed by the Pirates earlier this season after hitting.086. Or consider Scott Kazmir, a 37-year-old left-handed pitcher who earned his first All-Star Game appearance in 2006. Kazmir returned to the majors this year after not pitching in the majors since 2016, starting two games for the Giants. Edwin Jackson is the definition of a lifer. In his big league career, he played for 14 different clubs, some of which he played for several times. In 2019, he last pitched in the majors. It’s difficult to give up a sport you’ve been involved in your whole life.
Eddy Alvarez, a member of the U.S. speedskating relay team at the 2014 Winter Olympics, became the sixth athlete to win medals in both Olympic Games with Team USA’s silver. Getty Images/Steph Chambers
In the ninth inning, the tension was at an all-time high. Japan called in lefty reliever Suguru Iwazaki to face Red Sox prospect Triston Casas after Tyler Austin’s leadoff single in the eighth inning. Casas and Allen were the team’s two genuine position player prospects, and he had been the tournament’s top hitter. Casas attempted but failed to control his swing after Iwazaki delivered him a 3-2 slider that was probably off the plate. Frazier sprang to his feet, screaming angrily. That was possible that it was his last at-bat as a professional baseball player. Eric Filia came to a halt.
In the bottom of the ninth, Japan scored another run before turning to another rookie, Ryoji Kuribayashi, to finish the game. Kuribayashi has a 0.53 ERA in 332 innings with the Hiroshima Carp, with 18 saves and 54 strikeouts. He possesses a devastating split-fingerered pitch, like many of the Japanese pitchers who have made it to the big leagues in the United States. Before Allen singled with two outs, he received a strikeout and a fly ball.
It was up to Jack Lopez, the American lineup’s No. 9 batter. He’s been in the minor levels since 2012, with stints with the Royals, Braves, and now the Red Sox. He was born in Puerto Rico and has played winter ball there for seven seasons. He’s played for Idaho Falls, Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas, Omaha, Gwinnett, and Worcester, among others. He’s been to America. He’s never appeared in a big league game before.
Kuribayashi was exceptional. Lopez singled to shortstop, the Japanese players stormed the mound, and the coaching staff embraced, securing history. As broadcaster Eduardo Perez said, this was the gold medal Japan desired above all others.
The Japanese squad then formed a line down the third-base line and bowed to the American dugout.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who won the gold medal in baseball 2021?
The United States won the gold medal in baseball 2021.
Who won USA or Japan?
Who won the gold medal in mens baseball?
The US won the gold medal in mens baseball.
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