YOKOHAMA, Japan-A Japanese All-Stars team completed a specific national mission to win the Olympic baseball gold medal for the first time, beating the United States 2-0 Saturday night behind Munetaka Murakami’s third home run.
Masato Morishita and four relievers combined on a six-hitter, and the Japanese men (5-0) matched the performance of the women’s softball team, which supported the Americans for their second straight gold medal.
Hundreds of people who appeared to be Olympic volunteers cheered on Japan in a largely empty 34,000 Yokohama stadium, some wearing orange Japan jerseys and matching face masks that hot and humid night.
America, the nation that introduced baseball to Japan in 1872, ended 4-2. Teams were denied access to all 40-man rosters and many qualified top-flight opportunities by Major League Baseball and its clubs, preventing the United States and other countries whose top players are in the MLB.
Murakami, 21, the youngest player in Japan’s starting lineup, but already twice All-Star in four seasons with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows, reached an offspeed track of 85.2 km / h with a 2-2 score from Nick Martinez (1- 1 ). He drove the ball to the opposite field, over the 16-foot wall in the left center, and Martinez smashed when it landed in the fourth row of the empty blue seats.
Japan added an unearned run in the eighth when Masataka Yoshida singled out reliever Scott McGough and midfielder Jack Lopez drove the ball past the plate for a foul that allowed Tetsuto Yamada to score. The Japanese beat the United States for the second time in six days, and also gathered on the ninth and won 7-6 in 10 rounds in August. 2.
Morishita (2-0), a 23-year-old right-hander on Hiroshima Toyo Carp, who is this year’s reigning newcomer to the Central League, held the United States to three hits over five innings, knocking out five and going none.
Kodai Senga, a 28-year-old right-hander on the Pacific League’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, watched as a possible future MLB pitcher, followed with 98 mph heat in the sixth.
Hiromi Itoh hit the seventh and gave up a lead single to Tyler Austin on the eighth.
Suguru Iwazaki, a 30-year-old left-winger with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, eased and knocked out Boston prospect Triston Casas, retired Todd Frazier on a pop and made Eric Filia strike out.
Ryoji Kuribayashi, a 25-year-old All-Star for the first time for Hiroshima, finished with a perfect ninth for his third save, gave up a single to Nick Allen, and then retired Lopez on a forceout.
Japanese players poured in on the mound, the reliefs ran in from the bull. At one point, manager Atsunori Inaba was hoisted up in the air by players and thrown up and down the mound like on a trampoline. The players also lined up on the third baseline and bowed to their supporters.
Martinez, a 31-year-old former Texas right-hander in his fourth season of pitching in Japan, allowed five hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and one turn.
Former Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia was denied in his attempt to match the performance of his mentor, the late Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who led the United States to a baseball gold medal in 2000.
Frazier fell short in adding gold to the Little League World Series title he won with Tom’s River East American in New Jersey in 1998.
And while second baseman Eddy Alvarez only became the third American and sixth athlete overall to win medals at the Winter and Summer Games, he failed to get gold and matched the silver he earned as a speed skater in 2014.
Baseball was competed in the Olympics for only the sixth time, the first since 2008, restored at the request of Japan as the host nation. It has already been dropped for the 2024 Paris Games, but may return for 2028 in Los Angeles and 2032 in Brisbane, Australia.
Japan stopped its big league season on July 17 and let top players gather for the Olympics. MLB leaders mocked the concept of sending top players to the Olympics, saying it was impractical and uneconomical to stop the season, and many GMs rejected the idea of risking players injury for games other than with the club paying their checks.
Although the Japanese team lacked MLB stars Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish, they still had enough power to beat the resulting US roster twice, which was a dubious mix of prospects from Double-A who are not considered to be close to major leagues. clear, liberated major league veterans and career smaller camps.
The United States started a lineup that had a 2.9 career war with the exception of Frazier at 25.2. The only others with major league experience were Martinez (2.1), Austin (1.0) and Alvarez (-0.2).
Alvarez hit an inning-ending groundout with two on in the fifth, Jamie Westbrook flew out with two on in the sixth and grounded and stranded a runner in second place in the seventh.