A team of NPB professionals will battle a group of former MLB veterans and minor leaguers as Japan faces the USA in the gold medal game of the Olympic baseball tournament.
Japan is a perfect 4-0 in the tournament so far, while the United States has lost just one game – a 7-6 extra-inning decision to the Japanese squad.
US, Japan dominate Olympic baseball tournament
Both teams defeated South Korea to reach the final. First, Japan beat the Koreans 5-2 in the winner’s bracket of the knockout stage. That set up a clash between the United States and South Korea, which the Americans won 7-2.
Now Team USA has guaranteed itself an Olympic medal in baseball, something that the entire squad will remember for a lifetime.
“The bottom line: It says USA across our jersey and these guys are playing for a gold medal this weekend,” American manager Mike Scioscia told reporters. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The US team features a number of former MLB stars like Todd Frazier and Scott Kazmir, along with a variety of minor leaguers. Current MLB players aren’t playing in the Olympics.
Japan decided to pause its NPB season and give its domestic professionals the chance to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. While Japan still can’t rely on MLB superstars like Shohei Ohtani, it has plenty of depth and even some MLB-level talent in its own league, which made it the clear favorite coming into the Olympic baseball tournament.
Japanese stars seek first gold
Japan is seeking its first Olympic gold medal in baseball. It came close in 1996, losing 13-9 to Cuba in the gold medal game. It also won bronze in the 2004 Olympics. Now, Japan is on the verge to finally completing its dream at home.
“I have seen my teammates get nervous before games, and I have seen the excitement and joy in the clubhouse following our wins,” Japanese shortstop Hayato Sakamoto told reporters. “They show that these games are special for us. I definitely do feel the pressure. Everyone is feeling it. But we’ve remained calm and logical through it all.”
Unsurprisingly, Japan comes into the gold medal game as a slight but clear favorite over Team USA. FanDuel Sportsbook rates Japan as the -186 favorite to win gold in baseball, with the USA at +156 to pull off a minor upset in the final.
Nick Martinez will take the mound for the Americans in the gold medal game. He currently plays for the Fukoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB. The United States last won a gold medal in baseball at the 2000 Olympics. It also beat Japan for bronze in 2008, the last time baseball feature in an Olympic program before this year.