By Sports Reporter Sunil Sunder Raj for The Every Day Fan Sports
Registering back-to-back wins over Israel and Korea in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the USA Baseball team was on a roll.
The offense firing on all cylinders tallying 12 runs and 17 hits. Tyler Austin led the charge, driving in four runs and a home run. Meanwhile, the pitching staff dominating on the mound amassing 23 strikeouts.
After enjoying a day off, Team USA returned to action facing off against Japan in the tournament’s knockout stage. Japan opened play with a 7-4 win over Mexico. Totaling ten hits in the victory, designated hitter Tetsuto Yamada was the primary offensive weapon with four RBI’s.
Under the lights at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, Japan striking first in the third inning on RBI singles from Masataka Yoshida and Yuka Yanagita off Team USA starting pitcher Shane Baz.
Team USA answered back in the top fourth against Japan starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. With first baseman Triston Casas on first base, third baseman Todd Frazier cranking a drive into the left-center gap as Casas motored around for the first run for USA Baseball. At the same time, Frazier ended up at third base on the play.
Tanaka plunked right-fielder Eric Filia placing runners on the corner and one out. Catcher Marc Kolozvary stepped up to the plate and promptly ripped a single as Frazier came across to score, tying the game up at 2-2.
After pinch hitter Jack Lopez struck out, shortstop Nick Allen came through in the clutch, smoking a double down the right-field line as Eric Filia trotted across home plate for the go-ahead run and forcing Tanaka out of the game on a pitching change.
Japan responded in the bottom half of the frame with an RBI double from Hayato Sakamoto against Team USA pitcher Brandon Dickson.
In the top fifth, Team USA kept the hit parade going with back-to-back singles from Eddy Alvarez and Tyler Austin against pitcher Koyo Aoyagi. Stepping up to the plate, Triston Casas clubbed a three-run home run into left-field seats.
The back-and-forth action continued in the bottom half of the inning, with Seiya Suzuki uncorking a titanic blast that reached the upper deck of the left-field seats. Japan kept on applying the pressure against USA Baseball pitcher Anthony Carter. Hideto Asamura raked a double to centerfield.
Advancing to third base on a ground out, Asamura eventually crossed home plate on an RBI infield single from Ryosuke Kikuchi. Team USA Manager Mike Scioscia went to the bullpen, calling upon Ryan Ryder. With Kikuchi swiping second base, Ryder managed to stem the tide retiring the last two hitters of the inning.
Over the next couple of innings, both teams had opportunities to score, but solid pitching became the common theme. The trio of Ryan Ryder, Anthony Gose, and David Robertson for Team USA hurling 3 2/3 shutout innings, yielding just one hit, walking one, and whiffing five hitters.
With Team USA holding onto a 6-5 advantage entering the bottom of the ninth inning, manager Mike Scioscia handed the ball off to Scott McGough. With one out, McGough walked Seiya Suzuki. Hideto Asamura followed with a sharp single to right-field that placed runners on the corner.
Yuki Yanagita followed, hitting a high chopper in the infield that enabled Seiya to score from third base. In contrast, second base Eddy Alvarez made a stellar play throwing off balance to first base to catch Yanagita by a step. Still not out of the woods with a runner on second base, McGough avoided further trouble fanning Ryosuke Kikuchi.
In the 10th inning, the Olympic rules kicked into place, with runners starting at first and second base. A golden opportunity to take the lead, Team USA could not cash in as Todd Frazier struck out, Eric Filia grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Mark Kolozvary ended up flying into left field.
A similar set-up for Japan in the bottom half of the frame, pinch hitter Ryoya Kurihara dropped down a perfect sac bunt that advanced runners to second and third base. Taking over the catching duties in the ninth inning, Takuya Kai ended up being the hero of the game, hammering a single to right field as Yuka Yanagita scored the game-winning run that set off a jubilant celebration in the infield.
Now Team USA will wait to play the winner of the Israel-Dominican Republic. The start time for the next game is 11:00 p.m. EST and 12:00 p.m. Japan time.