Team USA will play for Olympic gold. Thursday night in Tokyo, USA defeated Korea in convincing fashion (USA 7, KOR 2) to advance to the gold medal game in baseball, where they will face Japan. Korea will play the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game Friday.
Although the final score is lopsided, Thursday's game was competitive into the middle innings. USA scratched across runs in the third and fifth innings thanks in part to a solo home run from former Diamondbacks and Brewers minor leaguer Jamie Westbrook. Korea answered back with a run in the top of the sixth to cut their deficit to 2-1.
Team USA pulled away with a five-run bottom of the sixth. Longtime big leaguer Todd Frazier opened the inning with a 12-pitch walk, then USA went strikeout, single, one-run single, walk, one-run single, run-scoring ground out, two-run single to plate five runs. Former Yankees prospect Tyler Austin capped the rally with the two-run single to give USA a 7-1 lead.
Austin and Red Sox minor leaguer Jack López each had two hits and drove in two runs. Austin has been USA's best hitter in the tournament, taking a .412 batting average into Thursday's game. He currently plays for the Yokohama BayStars in Japan and the Olympic baseball games are played at his home ballpark, Yokohoma Baseball Stadium.
Righty Joe Ryan, , started on the mound and limited Korea to one run in 4 1/3 innings. Fellow righty Ryder Ryan (no relation to Joe) coaxed a double play to end the fifth inning, then tossed a 1-2-3 sixth inning as well. He faced four batters and got five outs, and gave the offense a chance to break the game open.
Team USA will face Japan in the gold medal game Saturday. The two teams met earlier this week, with Japan earning a thrilling 7-6 walk-off win in 10 innings. That pushed USA into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament. Longtime Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is expected to start the gold medal game for Japan.
With Thursday's win, former Marlins infielder Eddy Alvarez became the third American and only the sixth person ever to win a medal at both the winter and summer Olympics. Alvarez, a speed skater, won a silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay in 2014. He's now guaranteed at least a silver medal in baseball.
USA is trying for their second ever Olympic gold in baseball. They beat a heavily favored Cuba team in 2000 thanks to former Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, who tossed a four-hit shutout in the gold medal game. Japan won the baseball silver medal in 1996.
Korea will play the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game Friday. Korea won Olympic gold in 2008, the last time baseball was played at the Olympics. The Dominican Republic has never medaled in baseball.