The United States baseball team failed to avenge its loss to Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, which means revenge will not come for at least another seven years.
Masato Morishita and four relievers combined on a six-hitter for Japan and Team USA had to settle for the silver medal after a 2-0 loss to the host country on Saturday in Yokohama.
Baseball is scheduled to be shelved for the 2024 Games in Paris, so the Americans will need to wait for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics — at least — to get another shot at beating Japan.
The U.S. team — filled with prospects and former big leaguers because players on 40-man rosters in Major League Baseball could not be invited — took the long road to the final. They lost to Japan on Monday and needed victories over the Dominican Republic and South Korea to sneak into the gold-medal game.
But the U.S. lineup, seeking America’s first gold medal in baseball since 2000, was silenced by Japan’s professional arms.
Nippon Professional Baseball, the league with the highest level of play in Japan, had been paused so the country could bring its best onto the Olympic stage. They were pushing for a first gold in a sport Japan loves, and which was introduced into the island nation by the U.S. nearly 150 years ago. Baseball had not been played in the Games since 2008 (when the U.S. won bronze), and Japan’s lone silver medal had come in 1996.
While former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka did not pitch in the final, Morishita, an NPB All-Star, threw five scoreless innings before Japan’s bullpen did the rest of the work.
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“They deserved to win,” U.S. manager Mike Scioscia told reporters as Japan completed a perfect (5-0) Olympics.
The Americans went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, squandering chances in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Former Yankee Tyler Austin went 1-for-3 with a walk, while former Yankee and Met Todd Frazier went 0-for-4.
U.S. starter Nick Martinez, a Fordham product who plays in NPB, pitched well for six innings, but the Americans couldn’t rally after Munetaka Murakami’s solo home run in the third got Japan on the board.
“I really feel like we left it all out there,” said Martinez, a 31-year-old who pitched for parts of four seasons with the Rangers, but not since 2017.
After the game, Tanaka and Frazier, who played together in The Bronx, shared a hug, and the U.S. team seemed content with the silver. The International Olympic Committee decides which sports are played in the Games, with contributions from the hosting country. Neither baseball nor softball will be played in Paris, which will introduce break dancing as an Olympic sport.
The odds are much better that Los Angeles will allow the United States another shot at gold, but Team USA has played its last Olympic game for quite a while.