Japan beat Team USA for historic first baseball gold

Team Japan celebrates after winning the gold medal game against Team United States on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Team Japan celebrates after winning the gold medal game against Team United States on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Hosts Japan won a first-ever gold medal in Olympic baseball with a cagey 2-0 win over silver-winners USA in Yokohama.

The Japanese hosts won their first Olympic gold medal in baseball as they beat the United States 2-0 in the gold-medal match from the Yokohama Baseball Stadium on 7 August to wrap up the competition.

"Each individual player on Team USA is very good, and they have many players who have played Major League Baseball," said Japan manager INABI Atsunori. "Having said that, I thought we could win if we played our baseball, and we did.

"We had two games against them [at Tokyo 2020] that either team could have won but both times it was us who won, and I think that's because of the power and the passion of the players on the Japanese team," he went on.

It was a tense contest between two countries where baseball enjoys massive support and both starting pitchers (MORISHITA Masato for Japan and Nick Martinez for the U.S.) were sharp through the early innings.

It wasn’t until the third inning that the first run was brought home. It came from the big bat of young slugger MURAKAMI Munetaka, whose solo home run flew over the American outfielders and into the empty grandstand to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

And the Japanese team managed to add another run in the eighth inning when a broken defensive play by the United States saw an opening for YAMADA Tetsuto to slide home from third base.

They held on to that 2-0 score and claimed an historic gold medal on home soil to match the Americans’ gold-medal count of one – still two behind the all-time leaders Cuba (3).

It was Japan’s second win over the Americans in this Olympic baseball tournament.

“They [Japan] pitched a hell of a game," said USA skipper and former Major League Baseball All-Star Todd Frazier after the game. "They got first-pitch strikes. It just wasn’t our day at the plate. No other way around it. No excuses. We did not have many opportunities with men in scoring position with less than two outs. Hard to win games that way.”

Earlier in the day, and also in Yokohama, the Dominican Republic won their first Olympic baseball medal when they beat Republic of Korea to the bronze 10-6 with a late hitting rally after trailing for most of the game.