With 5 more games of Olympic baseball action in the books, we have now determined the final four teams standing. If you had looked at the teams in the tournament before it began, you might have picked these four teams out as the likely final four candidates, as Japan, Korea, the USA, and the Dominican Republic ranked as the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 7th best teams in the world coming into the Olympics. Now obviously, the best players from each country aren’t playing, as many of them are tied up with Major League Baseball (you can bet Japan would have loved to have Shohei Ohtani on the roster). But still, these are four countries where baseball runs deep and is an important part of their culture.
As you can see from the bracket below, the teams will have very different paths to their respective medal games, with two teams just one win away from the gold medal game, while the other two will need to win two to get to the championship game. The bracket below was published prior to the conclusion of Game 11, where Israel was eliminated from the competition.
Japan and Korea sit in the pole position at the moment, with Japan’s tight victory over the USA giving them the enviable position of only needing to win two more games to be the gold medallists. Korea had a tougher road (at least by number of games played), narrowly defeating the Dominican Republic before demolishing Israel to secure their position in what I’d like to call the gold semi-final. Team USA had already guaranteed their position in one of the medal games by virtue of winning their pool, and got to move to the final four portion of the loser’s bracket despite losing their first-round matchup. They will take on the Dominican Republic, who will now be playing their fourth game in as many days, compared to just the second game for the USA.
Here is the schedule for the remainder of the tournament:
Game 12: USA vs. Dominican Republic, Tuesday, August 3rd, 11 pm ET (loser goes to Bronze Medal game)
Game 13: Japan vs. Korea, Wednesday, August 4th, 6 am ET (winner goes on to Gold Medal game)
Game 14: Winner of USA/Dominican Republic vs. Loser of Japan/Korea, Thursday, August 5th, 6 am ET
Game 15: Bronze Medal Game, Friday, August 6th, 11 pm ET
Game 16: Gold Medal Game, Saturday, August 7th, 6 am ET
Japan Gets Revenge
During the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Team USA defeated Japan in the semi-final, knocking them out of contention. While Japan didn’t have the ability to eliminate the US men altogether, they were certainly still looking for revenge and hoping to move on to the gold semi-final themselves here in the Olympics. However, Team USA was hoping to power forward with their top prospects, with the Rays top pitching prospect Shane Baz on the mound and hot-hitting Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas at first. Baz was looking to build on the performances of previous starters Nick Martinez and Joe Ryan (currently pitching for the Durham Bulls, TBR AAA affiliate), but unfortunately was unable to find the strike zone, walking three batters and giving up two runs before being chased out of the game in the third inning. Team USA rallied from the early deficit to tie the game up at 3-3 heading into the fifth inning, where Casas did what he’s been doing all Olympics.
Triston Casas plays LONG BALL! ?
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 2, 2021
That oppo-taco gave the US a 6-3 lead that would get cut to 6-5, thanks in part due to Japan’s RF Suzuki Seiya, who found himself hitless in the Olympics before this at-bat.
Seiya Suzuki CRUSHED this homer deep into the left field bleachers for Japan!
Baseball America believes 26 year-old who is hitting .306 in Japan could be in the MLB in 2022
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) August 2, 2021
Suzuki came up again in the bottom of the 9th, with Japan still trailing by a run, and drew a critical walk against Scott McGough of the Yakult Swallows (NPB). He made his way to third on a single, and with 1 out, ran home and scored the tying run on a ground ball to second base hit by CF Yanagita Yuki. Team USA couldn’t score in the top of the 10th, but with Yanagita on 2nd base to start the 10th, Japan bunted him over to third and he was then driven home on a single by pinch-hitter Kai Takuya.
Japan takes it in extras.
They head to the semifinals. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/l5At9eCJMM
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 2, 2021
The Paths Forward
So as you could see in the above bracket, there are two very different paths forward for each team. For Japan and Korea, they find themselves in the winner’s semi-final matchup, where the winner of that game will automatically advance into the Gold Medal game. The loser isn’t necessarily knocked out of the running for the Gold Medal though, as they will take on the winner of the game between the US and the Dominican Republic. The loser of the latter matchup will automatically be sent to the Bronze Medal game. So, to give an example since my brain is hurting from trying to decipher these brackets: if Japan defeats Korea, Japan will automatically be placed in the Gold Medal game. If the Dominican Republic loses to Team USA, they will be sent to the Bronze Medal game. Then, Team USA would take on Korea, where the winner goes to the Gold Medal game and the loser goes to the Bronze Medal game. To try and simplify it, Japan and Korea essentially have two chances to win 1, whereas Team USA and the Dominican Republic need to win two in a row to get to the Gold Medal game.
Photo by Inpho Photography/Imago/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)