Japanese league players and different generations of Major League Baseball (MLB) talent secured wins for the United States and the Dominican Republic on Friday, leaving Israel with two chances to win a game and Mexico facing a big match on Saturday.
The U.S. in their first game at Tokyo 2020 thrashed Olympic newcomers Israel 8-1. Joe Ryan, 25, a top prospect who learned in the Olympic village dining hall last week that he had been traded to the Minnesota Twins from the Tampa Bay Rays, allowed a solo home run and struck out five over the first six innings.
“He’s got great stuff,” said Israel and former MLB hitter Danny Valencia said. “The Twins are going to be really pleased with him.”
Eddy Alvarez, 31, a 2014 silver medallist in the 5,000 metres speed skating relay and a Florida Marlins minor leaguer, drove in two runs on two doubles and scored two runs himself.
Tyler Austin, 29, playing at the ballpark he normally calls home as the home-run leader for the Japan league’s Yokohama BayStars, brought in three including on a two-run homer in the third inning.
“I couldn’t keep my heart rate down,” Austin said of the moments after the blast. “In the fifth inning, my heart was still beating out of my chest.”
Earlier, well-known former MLB players Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista along with current Japanese league pitcher Angel Sanchez gave the Dominican Republic a 1-0 victory over Mexico.
One-time New York Yankees outfielder Cabrera, 36, pushed a liner to the left-field wall in the fifth inning to bring home the lone run.
“It wasn’t only me. It was all of us,” Cabrera said. “All 24 of us are heroes.”
In the sixth inning, Jose Bautista, 40, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays and playing left field, prevented Mexico from scoring by throwing out a runner at home.
Sanchez, 31, who plays for Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, held Mexico to two hits over six innings.
On the other side, Mexico and former MLB hitter Adrian Gonzalez had a single and a walk in four plate appearances.
“Unfortunately, we hit a lot of balls at them,” Gonzalez said. “But the way this whole format is we control our destiny.”
If Japan (1-0) beat Mexico on Saturday, the hosts can rest until Monday’s quarter-finals, but the Mexicans could steal that privilege with a two-run win over Japan.
The bottom team amongst Japan, Mexico and Dominican Republic will on Sunday face Israel, who would have one last shot before elimination if they lost that game.
The second-lowest team will meet the loser of United States v South Korea, who clash on Saturday in a game that sends the winners to the quarter-finals.