After digging out of an early hole to take a three-run lead in the fifth inning, the United States lost its first knockout-round matchup against Japan, 7-6 in 10 innings, on Monday to relegate them to the elimination bracket.
One more loss means Team USA will be eliminated from the Olympics.
Takuya Kai provided the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning off 17-year MLB veteran Edwin Jackson, who played for 14 different teams during that stretch.
Down one run entering the bottom of the ninth, Japan tied things up at six to force extra innings after Yuki Yanagita singled in Seiya Suzuki off reliever Scott McGough, who plays his professional ball in Japan for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The United States was in the driver’s seat after the top of the fifth after a three-run home run from Boston Red Sox prospect Triston Casas put the Americans ahead 6-3.
It was the exclamation point of a rousing comeback that saw the USA fall behind 2-0 early but scratched home three in the fourth inning, featuring an RBI double from former Yankees and Mets third baseman Todd Frazier.
America’s breakthrough came against another familiar face in former Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, who returned to Japan over the winter after seven seasons in the Bronx.
But after getting one back in the bottom of the fourth, Japan responded to the United States’ big fifth inning with two runs of their own, a solo home run from Suzuki followed up by an RBI single from Hideto Asamura.
While Japan is on to face South Korea in the semifinals, the United States will wait to play the winner of Tuesday’s game between Israel and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.