And that’s all, folks! 16 games between some of the best teams in the world have wrapped up with Japan on top. And, what an incredible 16 games it was. We had the pleasure of watching some great storylines unfold before our eyes, between Team Israel’s historic appearance at the Olympic games, Japan making good on their #1 world ranking, and one last look at some of baseball’s former superstars.
Let’s take a look at the final bracket:
Final Four Recap
When we last left off, Japan had beaten the USA in a thrilling 7-6 game, while Korea’s 11-1 drubbing of Israel had put them in prime medal position. In order to stay alive, the United States needed to win an additional two games to even reach the gold medal game. Meanwhile, Japan merely needed to dispose of Korea to reach the final.
Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto made it easy for Samurai Japan to slip by Korea with pitches like these:
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Unfair Curveball…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/8Lqcl0lTxx
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 4, 2021
Yamamoto handled Korea across 5.1 innings, giving up 2 ER but striking out an absurd nine Korean hitters. And, in the remaining 3.2 innings, Japan’s bullpen shut the door, scattering a couple more hits and tacking on six more strikeouts to the game total. The bullpen, which had been a bit of an issue for Japan in the group stage, had no problem during the elimination rounds.
Japan’s offense boiled down to a handful of players. Unsurprisingly, Tetsuto “Japanese Mike Trout” Yamada was a major contributor against Korea, hitting two doubles, batting in 3 runs, and scoring one run himself. Yamada would ultimately be named the tournament MVP thanks to regular performances like these.
M.V.P. M.V.P. M.V.P. Tetsudo Yamada !!!! #JPN
#Tokyo2020 #Olympics #Baseball #gold pic.twitter.com/rbjEIve1ML
— WBSC #Baseball ⚾ #Tokyo2020 (@WBSC) August 7, 2021
Can he please be posted for MLB teams, already?
On the other side of the bracket, the United States needed to keep winning in order to get their desired rematch against Japan. Their first win-or-go-home match was against the Dominican Republic, which had just handed Israel their second loss of the elimination stage. Literally. The Dominican Republic played its second game 15 hours after its victory over Israel.
The United States turned to Scott Kazmir, who had pitched for the San Francisco Giants in a major league game less than 2 months earlier. Kazmir turned in a superb performance, holding the DR to two hits and a walk through five innings.
This same matchup probably happened in MLB games 5-10 years ago:
Now José Bautista ropes a double down the line off of fellow MLB vet, Scott Kazmir!
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 4, 2021
Bonus: Kazmir (and Team USA) was being managed by Mike Scioscia, who previously managed Kazmir with the Angels from 2010-2011.
The United States would allow the DR just 1 run, as David Robertson coughed up a solo home run to Charlie Valerio in the ninth inning. Team USA found all the offense it needed from Triston Casas and Tyler Austin, who each went yard (again). Casas scored Austin on this long home run in the first inning:
Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas has done it AGAIN!
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) August 4, 2021
The United States eliminated the Dominican Republic, 3-1. Their next match was against Korea, with the winner heading to the gold medal game and the loser falling down to the bronze medal game.
Korea was not able to provide much resistance to Tyler Austin, either:
Tyler Austin is LOCKED IN at the dish. ⚾️@USABaseball extend their lead to 7-1. #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/LzD3jt2zMm
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 5, 2021
Here’s some more proof that Tyler Austin was virtually unstoppable:
A ridiculous six Olympic games for Tyler Austin pic.twitter.com/8QRDAkyYbl
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 7, 2021
Thanks to 4.1 innings of one-run ball from Joe Ryan, who you may recognize as one of the prospects the Rays traded for Nelson Cruz a few weeks ago, and strong performances from their bullpen arms, the United States was able to run away with the victory against Korea, finishing the defending champs off, 7-2. Korea was sent to the bronze medal game to face the Dominican Republic, while the United States got their rematch against Japan.
The Dominican Republic and Korea got themselves into quite a slugfest in the bronze medal game, which meant we got to see some incredibly majestic home runs, like this one from Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez.
Julio Rodriguez will save the Mariners. pic.twitter.com/ELEzNqKjGv
— ry (@RyanJawnz) August 7, 2021
And more dingers means home run dances!
📸 Juan Francisco 🇩🇴 Home Run Dance 🕺🌶️💣 #dom #Tokyo2020 #Olymipcs #baseball pic.twitter.com/jnWSr1UY2h
— WBSC #Baseball ⚾ #Tokyo2020 (@WBSC) August 1, 2021
Old MLB friend Melky Cabrera also contributed heavily to the DR offense, knocking out 4 hits in 5 at-bats and collecting an RBI.
Ultimately, the DR was able to take home its first-ever Olympic baseball medal with its 10-6 win over Korea, which gave way to this celebration:
🎉🙌🏽🥉🇩🇴⚾️ #ArribaRD🇩🇴 #Tokyo2020 #DOM #Baseball pic.twitter.com/m1fxFMZ0bk
— ProbeisbolRD (@probeisbolrd) August 7, 2021
In the gold medal game, the United States and Japan could barely get anything going offensively. Both starting pitchers were sharp, as Nick Martinez went 6 strong innings for the United States, allowing a run and six hits, striking out seven, while Masato Morishita scattered 3 hits across 5 scoreless innings for Samurai Japan.
Japan got its game-winning run from Munetaka Murakami on this blast to center field:
#JPN up 1-0 on @USABaseball Third baseman #MunetakaMurakami smashes a solo home run off the top of the centerfield wall with one out in bottom 3rd #TokyoOlympics @TheEveryDayFan2 pic.twitter.com/1PbSFWIOwA
— Sunil Sunder Raj (@SunilSunderRaj3) August 7, 2021
That was all Japan needed to claim gold, but an RBI single from Masataka Yoshida gave Japan an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th. And, the Japanese bullpen provided some more magic, shutting down Team USA after Morishita left the game.
An incredible, undefeated run for Japan ended in the best possible way: with a gold medal on home soil.
🇯🇵 Japan is the first Olympic host nation to win the gold medal in baseball on home soil#Tokyo2020 #Olympics #Baseball pic.twitter.com/DMGFINVeoI
— WBSC #Baseball ⚾ #Tokyo2020 (@WBSC) August 7, 2021
Coincidentally (or maybe not?), the Japanese softball team claimed a gold medal on its home soil with a 2-0 victory over the United States. So, the top two teams for baseball and softball were exactly the same.
C – Charlie Valerio (Dominican Republic)
It was a tough decision between Valerio and Japan’s Takuya Kai, with Kai holding the higher OPS and a sky-high .467 OBP, but Valerio collected a couple of XBH and tacked on a home run, so he was the more entertaining option, in my personal opinion.
1B – Triston Casas (United States)/Danny Valencia (Israel)
Yet another tough decision, as Casas and Valencia both crushed a handful of homers for their countries. It’s so close between them (Casas had one more RBI than Valencia, but Valencia had one more run scored than Casas) that both are deserving of this honor. Their triple slash lines are pretty similar, too.
2B – Tetsuto Yamada (Japan)
Yamada showed up game after game and raked. He was named the tournament’s MVP for good reason, posting a triple slash of .350/.435/.600 and racking up 3 stolen bases.
3B – Erick Mejia (Dominican Republic)
Mejia was one of the engines for the Dominican Republic offense, scoring four runs and slashing .286/.400/.381 across his tournament appearances. Third base was one of the thinner positions at the tournament as far as high-performing players.
OF – Hyun Soo Kim (Korea)
Kim absolutely raked for Korea, finishing the tournament with a slash line of .400/.438/.833. Kim hit three home runs, tied for the tournament lead, and otherwise provided a significant chunk of Korea’s offense.
OF – Mitch Glasser (Israel)
Glasser was yet another superb performer (and a fairly unexpected contributor, as Glasser hit 8th in Israel’s elimination game against the DR) in the tournament, finishing with a slash line of .412/.474/.588 across 17 ABs.
OF – Julio Rodríguez (Dominican Republic)
Rodríguez slugged his way through the competition, hitting the aforementioned majestic home run in the bronze medal game and otherwise mashing his way to a slash line of .417/.444/.625.
Honorable Mention OF – Joey Meneses (Mexico)
While Mexico had the shortest stay at the tournament (3 games), Meneses managed to make a nice impression, blasting a home run and collecting hits in half of his at-bats in the tournament.
DH – Tyler Austin (United States)
There is no doubt about this one. Austin provided the offense when Casas could not, accumulating the ridiculous stats we saw earlier. Austin hit 2 home runs and slashed .417/.462/.792. Let’s hope he gets another shot at the big leagues soon!
P – Nick Martinez (United States)
While the WBSC opted to give this spot in their All-Tournament team to Martinez’s teammate, Anthony Gose, Martinez was the more deserving candidate for his 11 IP, 16 Ks, and a 1.64 ERA. Martinez’s performance in the gold medal game was exceptional, even if he was the losing pitcher of record.
P – Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Japan)
Another superb starting pitcher, Yamamoto put together an even better performance than Martinez, accumulating 11.1 IP with 18 Ks and a 1.59 ERA.
P – Sangwoo Cho (Korea)
Cho appeared in all 6 of Korea’s games, allowing just 1 ER (ERA of just 1.13 for the tournament) and striking out 10 across eight strong innings.
Here is the WBSC All-Olympic Baseball Team, for comparison’s sake:
The Tokyo 2020 All-Olympic Baseball Team 🇯🇵 🇺🇸 🇰🇷 🇩🇴 🇮🇱
MVP: Tetsuto Yamada #JPN !!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/RejlCaJRbt
— WBSC #Baseball ⚾ #Tokyo2020 (@WBSC) August 7, 2021
From all of us on the PitcherList Olympic team (Carlos Marcano, Nicole Cahill, Myles Nelson, and myself, Adam Sloate), thank you for reading our coverage! We hope you enjoyed our previews, recaps, and highlights!
Photo by Inpho Photography/Imago/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Well, OK, fine, Valencia did pretty good, but his reputation is that of an asshole and clubhouse cancer in MLB.
I have a hard time taking any accolades for him seriously, and he’ll probably never see another pro game in the US, age-wise or otherwise.