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USA Baseball drops 7-6 decision to Japan

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Team USA came out on the losing end of a back-and-forth battle worthy of an Olympic Games final on Monday night, falling to Japan 7-6 in extra innings at Yokohama Baseball Stadium.

Despite the loss, the U.S. (2-1) is still in contention for a spot in the gold medal game on Saturday but must win its next two games to do so. The stars and stripes will face the winner of the elimination game between the Dominican Republic and Israel on Wednesday, August 4, at noon JST/Tuesday, August 3 at 11 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. PDT. A loss in either of its next two games would relegate Team USA into the bronze medal game.

U.S. starter Shane Baz struggled out of the gate and was chased from the game in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Japan hit a double to the centerfield wall and followed with an RBI-single to center to score the game’s first run. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases and an infield single put Japan ahead 2-0 before Brandon Dickson came on and got out of the jam.

But Team USA would respond immediately. Triston Casas worked a one-out walk off Japan starter Masahiro Tanaka and Todd Frazier drove the first pitch he saw into the left-center gap to score Casas from first base. Eric Filia was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with one out before Mark Kolozsvary followed with an RBI-single to tie the game at two. Nick Allen then placed a double down the right-field line to score Filia from second to push the U.S. ahead 3-2.

Japan tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI-double; but, the stars and stripes, again, wasted no time responding. Back-to-back singles by Eddy Alvarez and Tyler Austin led off the top of the fifth to put runners on first and second with no outs and Casas coming to the plate. He connected in a big way, slamming an opposite-field three-run home run over the left-field fence to put Team USA ahead 6-3.

A solo shot to left field and an RBI-single put Japan back within one after five complete, with the red, white, and blue leading 6-5. The bullpens took over from there, exchanging outs until the bottom of the ninth. The stars and stripes turned to Scott McGough to close out the game but a walk, a single, and a tough groundout tied the game at 6-6 to force extra-innings.

The U.S. was able to advance a runner to third base on a fielder’s choice with one out in the extra-inning tie-breaker, but a lineout to left field kept Team USA off the board. Japan, however, got the job done, sacrificing both runners to second and third on a bunt before Takuya Kai came up with the walk-off single to right field to finish the game, 7-6.

Baz worked 2.2 innings in a no-decision for the U.S. He gave up five hits, two earned runs, walked three batters, and struck out one in his first appearance in the Olympic Games. Dickson was first out of the bullpen and gave up one run in his 1.1 innings of work, and he was followed by Anthony Carter, who gave up two runs in 0.1 innings.

Ryder Ryan struck out two batters in 1.1 innings of hitless relief and Anthony Gose followed with 1.1 innings of one-hit relief with a strikeout to get the U.S. into the eighth inning. David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out two batters before McGough suffered the blown save in the bottom of the ninth inning. Edwin Jackson was tagged with the loss, giving up the unearned run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Four Team USA batters had multi-hit games on the evening, led by Kolozsvary (3-for-5, RBI) and Casas (2-for-4, 3 RBIs, 2 runs). Austin continued his hot hitting in the tournament, finishing the day 2-for-5 with a run scored and Frazier had his first multi-hit game of the Olympics, going 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.

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