This is not a good start for Team USA.
Four years after being left at home, out of the Olympics, the U.S.
returned to Olympics action on Wednesday morning. It didn’t go well.
After trailing for most of the game, the U.S. scored three runs in the
top of the ninth to stay alive, but South Korea rallied for two runs
off of U.S. closer Jeff Stevens (Indians) in the bottom of the ninth to
pull out an 8-7 win.
Stevens came in after the rest of the U.S. bullpen pitched
flawlessly, throwing 4 2/3 perfect innings. Things didn’t go as easily
for Stevens. He gave up a leadoff double to Keun Woo Jeong to start the
ninth. A ground out advanced Lee to third, and he then scored on a Taek
Keun Lee grounder to second baseman Jayson Nix (Rockies). Nix tried to
come home to gun out Jeong, but his throw was well off the plate to the
first-base side. Before throwing another pitch, Stevens tried to pick
off Lee, but the throw was wild, allowing Lee to advance to third on a
two-base error. Jeon Wook Lee drove his fellow Lee in with the winning
run on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Matt Brown (Angels) hit a two-run single
with two out in the ninth that kept Korea from an earlier celebration.
Mike Hessman (Tigers) homered to lead off the ninth to cut Korea’s lead
to 6-5, and Taylor Teagarden and Brian Barden followed with a single
and double to put runners at second and third with no outs. But John
Gall struck out and Nix popped out to second base, putting the pressure
on Brown. He came throw with a single over the South Korean shortstop’s
head, giving the U.S. its first lead since it lead 1-0 heading into the
top of the second.
U.S. starter Brandon Knight (Mets) gave up six runs and 10
baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, as manager Dave Johnson gave him a lot of
chances to work out of jams. Former Braves prospect Jung Keun Bong held
the U.S. to three runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the pitching star for
Korea was sidearmer Tae Hyong Chown, who struck out six in 2 2/3
While the loss is a surprising one for the U.S., this year’s Olympic
format ensures that it’s not a crushing defeat. The U.S. will face the
seven other teams in round-robin play. At the end of the round robin,
the top four teams will advance to the semifinals. Even if the U.S.
were to lose to Cuba and Japan in upcoming games, it could ensure its
advance to the medal round by winning its other four remaining games.
In other games, Cuba beat Yu Darvish
and Japan 4-2, while Canada run-ruled host China 10-0 and Taiwan beat
the Netherlands 5-0.