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Japan rally to beat US 7-6 in 10 innings and make baseball semis

Japan's baseball players and coaches celebrate their victory after the extra tenth inning in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games baseball round 2 game between USA and Japan at Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on August 2, 2021. (AFP)
Japan's baseball players and coaches celebrate their victory after the extra tenth inning in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games baseball round 2 game between USA and Japan at Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on August 2, 2021. (AFP)
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02 Aug 2021 11:08:00 GMT9
02 Aug 2021 11:08:00 GMT9

YOKOHAMA: Yuki Yanagita tied it with an RBI grounder off Scott McGough in the ninth inning, Takuya Kai hit a winning single against Edwin Jackson in the 10th and Japan beat the United States 7-6 Monday night to reach the Olympic semifinals.

Japan overcame a 6-5, ninth-inning deficit against McGough, a 31-year-old former Miami Marlins reliever with 16 saves in his third season with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows. He walked Seiya Suzuki with one out as rain started to fall, then allowed a single to Hideto Asamura that put runners at the corners.

Yanagita hit a chopper to second, driving in a run on the groundout.

Under tournament rules, extra innings start with runners on first and second, an even more extreme distortion than the Major League Baseball runner-on-second rule used since the start of the 2020 pandemic season.

Ryoji Kuribayashi (1-0) retired the side in order in the top half, and Jackson (0-1), a 37-year-old veteran of a record 14 major league teams, relieved in the bottom of the inning.

Pinch-hitter Ryoya Kurihara sacrificed, manager Mike Scioscia went to the mound and the U.S. went to a five-man infield.

Kai, who had entered as a defensive replaced, lined the next pitch off the right-field wall.

Japan (3-0) will play South Korea (3-1) on Wednesday night for a spot in the final.

The U.S. (2-1) fell into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination second round. To reach this weekend’s final, it must beat the winner of Tuesday’s elimination game between the Dominican Republic (1-2) and Israel (1-3), and then the Japan-South Korea loser.

Boston prospect Triston Casas hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the fifth inning for a 6-3 lead after Todd Frazier started a comeback from a 2-0 deficit with an RBI double off former Yankees teammate Masahiro Tanaka.

Host Japan, seeking its first baseball gold medal, chased Tampa Bay prospect Shane Baz in the third inning.

Tanaka, who returned to Japan this season after seven years in New York, left in a three-run fourth after Mark Kolozsvary’s run-scoring single and a go-ahead single by No. 9 hitter Nick Allen.

Hayato Sakamoto, the 2019 Central League MVP for the Yomiuri Giants, tied it 3-3 in the bottom half against former St. Louis pitcher Brandon Dickson with his second double, but the U.S. broke ahead in the fifth against right-hander Koyo Aoyagi.

Eddy Alvarez, the 2014 speedskating silver medalist turned baseball player, and Tyler Austin singled. That brough up Casas, a 21-year-old Double-A player and former first-round draft pick, whose go-ahead, two-run homer decided Saturday’s win over South Korea. He drove an outside 2-1 pitch to the opposite field for a 6-3 lead.

Japan pulled within a run in the bottom half against Anthony Carter when Suzuki, Japan’s 2019 Home Run Derby champion, crushed a leadoff homer, Asamura doubled and Ryosuke Kukichi hit a run-scoring infield single. Texas minor leaguer Ryder Ryan came in and escaped further damage.

Baseball is being played at the home of the Central League’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars, and while most games have taken place in a nearly empty 34,000-seat stadium, there were perhaps 150 media and volunteers in the seats for the high-profile matchup.

AP

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