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Baseball Olympic Games 2020 - Official Payoff

Japan gets walkoff win over Dominican Republic in Olympic baseball opener

Japan gets walkoff win over Dominican Republic in Olympic baseball opener
28/07/2021
The Samurai Japan mounted a late-inning comeback to win the first Tokyo 2020 opener.

With the presence of the International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach, in the stands of the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, the sport of baseball officially returned to the Olympic Games programme with today’s Tokyo 2020 opening game between Japan and Dominican Republic. In a very close game, Hayato Sakamoto hit a walkoff single in the ninth to give Japan a 4-3 win in the opener.

Starting pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cristopher Mercedes dominated in the first two thirds of the game in an intense pitching duel. The Japanese right hander only allowed a first-inning single in six frames while striking out 9, before handling the ball to the bullpen. The Dominican lefty gave up only two hits with seven strikeouts in six frames.

The first reliever for Japan was Koyo Aoyagi, who immediately gave up a pair of singles to Juan Francisco and Erick Mejia. With two outs on the scoreboard, Charlie Valerio hit a double in the left-center gap to bring in the first two runs of the Olympic baseball competition.

In the bottom of the seventh, Mercedes gave up consecutive hits by Hideto Asamura and Yuki Yanigata, the latter a double to leave two runners in scoring position. Right hander Luis Castillo replaced Mercedes and limited the damage to only one run, striking out Ryosuke Kikuchi, forcing an RBI grounder by Munetaka Murakami, and getting Takuya Kai to fly out.

One inning later Japan was close to tie the game. With Tetsuto Yamada on second base, Masataka Yoshida singled to left field and the Japanese leadoff hitter tried to score from second, but he was thrown out at home plate by Johan Mieses. Inaba would challenge but the play stood.

Dominican Republic added a run in the top of the ninth with an RBI double by Gustavo Nuñez off Ryoji Kuribayashi, to make it 3-1.

Dominican manager Hector Borg handed the ball to Jairo Asencio in the ninth, but the right-handed pitcher blew the save and lost the game. After retiring the first out, Asencio gave up three consecutive hits, including an RBI single off the bat of Murakami to make it a one-run ballgame, and then Kai bunted-in the tying run.

Moments later, Yamada loaded the bases with a single, and Jhan Martinez came on in relief. But the right hander couldn’t escape the jam allowing a long walkoff single by Hayato Sakamoto to center field to complete the come from behind win for Japan.

Kuribayashi was credited with the win, pitching the ninth for Japan, giving up two hits and one run. He struck out 2. 

The loss went to Asencio, who only retired one out in the ninth frame. 

With the win, Japan takes the lead in Group A. On Friday, Dominican Republic will take on Mexico, while on Saturday, Mexico and Japan will close the group play.

Tomorrow a 7 p.m., the Group B will open at Yokohama Stadium with the game between Korea, the Beijing 2008 gold medal winners, and newcomer Israel.