The United States kept its gold-medal hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, sending the Caribbean nation to the bronze-medal game.
The U.S. squad will face South Korea early Thursday morning (6 a.m. ET) to decide which of them will go to the gold-medal game. Japan, which defeated South Korea on Wednesday, has already punched its ticket to the gold-medal game.
Against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, Boston Red Sox prospect and USA first baseman Triston Casas smacked his third home run of the Olympics. The two-run blast came off his Red Sox minor-league teammate and Dominican starter Denyi Reyes.
“At the end of the tournament, no one’s going to remember how many homers I hit,” Casas said. “It’s just whether we came home with that gold.”
U.S. starting pitcher Scott Kazmir — a three-time All-Star and former New York Mets product famously traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 — who before the Games came out of a surfing-filled retirement from professional baseball so his young children could watch him play, threw five scoreless innings.
“He may not be throwing as hard as he used to, but he’s got slightly better command,” Dominican Republic left fielder and former Toronto Blue Jays slugger, Jose Bautista, said. “He showed that guys like him can still go out there and compete.”
Bautista’s long third-inning lead from third base led to a balk on Kazmir for a run, but umpires immediately reversed their call and the run.
Umpire rulings, scorching temperatures, and playing 14 hours after eliminating Israel in a 7-6 battle earlier in the tournament all wore on the Dominican Republic.
But their top batter, Julio Rodriguez, who on Wednesday was hitless for the first time during the Games, rejected excuses.
“There’s nobody to blame but us,” he said.
Dominican second baseman Gustavo Nunez left the game with an oblique muscle strain and will miss the bronze medal match, coach Hector Borg told Reuters. Added to outfielder Emilio Bonifacio’s ailing hamstring, their backup catcher could be their lone bench player.
Dominicans said they felt pressure to have a medal to show for their time in Japan.
“We got to push all of our chips to center of the table because there’s no tomorrow,” Bautista, who had a cup of coffee with the Mets, said.