A Red Sox minor-leaguer rescued a former Yankees All-Star from a jam because there are no MLB rivalries in the Tokyo Olympics.
Third baseman Jack Lopez made a sliding backhanded stop of a smash down the line and quickly fired a one-hop throw across the diamond for the final out Saturday as the United States baseball team wrapped up a 4-2 victory against South Korea.
With the tying run at the plate and one out in the ninth inning, Team USA closer David Robertson – who filled every relief role imaginable and had 53 saves over nine seasons with the Yankees – notched a strikeout on a pitch in the dirt. But Robertson wasn’t in the clear until the web gem by Lopez, a 10-year minor-leaguer on a break from the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate.
South Korea won the gold medal in 2008, the last time baseball was part of the Olympics.
“First and foremost, Korea is … fundamentally sound. You have to play 27 outs against them,” Team USA manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, as if seeing into the future. “You do not want to give them any more outs. We are going to have to play very, very good defense.”
Nick Martinez allowed a first-inning run but recovered to throw up four straight zeroes and strike out nine over five innings. He was backed by four relievers, and Team USA’s bullpen has now thrown seven scoreless innings over two games.
The U.S. was powered by home runs from Nick Allen and Tristan Casas. Casas golfed a go-ahead two-run shot in the fourth inning and Allen lined a solo shot down the left-field line as part of a two-run fifth. Three straight singles produced the other run, as Tyler Austin, another former Yankee, knocked in Jamie Westbrook.
By sweeping Israel and South Korea, the U.S. won Group B and advanced to the double-elimination stage of the six-team tournament, which will include the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Japan from Group A.
South Korea scored one run in the ninth off Robertson after squandering a chance to rally from a 4-1 deficit in the seventh. With two on and two out, Anthony Gose induced a soft line out to shortstop. Gose worked a clean eighth, too.