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2004 Olympics: Japan Blasts Canada For Bronze
Compiled By John Manuel
Young lefthander Tsuyoshi Wada won his second start and Japan jumped on former big leaguer Mike Johnson to defeat Canada 11-2 and win the bronze medal at the Olympics.
Japan went 7-2 in the Games, losing twice to Australia and beating every other team. However, their 1-0 loss Tuesday to the Aussies relegated the Japanese, with a team full of players from their major leagues, to third place.
Wada, a 23-year-old who pitches for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, went five innings and struck out six while limiting Canada to four hits and two runs for his second victory in as many Olympic starts. He had plenty of support as Japan rebounded from its shutout loss in the semifinal with 13 hits against Canada.
Catcher Kenji Jojima homered and doubled twice and had four RBIs to lead the offense. Kosuke Fukudome, Shinya Miyamoto and Kazuhiro Wada also had two hits apiece.
Canada started the tournament 4-0 but finished 5-4 and without a medal in its first Olympics since the 1988 Games in Seoul, when baseball was still just a demonstration sport.
"We are disappointed," manager Ernie Whitt (Blue Jays) said, "but we should be pleased because it is our first time in the semifinals. Canadians should be proud of this team. The team played well, had fun and enjoyed themselves."
Jojima got Japan started when he launched a two-run homer to left center with two outs in the first inning, and Japan got four more in the third to chase Johnson. Lefthander Eric Cyr didn't fare much better out of the bullpen, allowing all three runners he inherited in the inning to score.
Jojima maintained his hot bat in the fourth inning with a one-out RBI double over the third-base bag to score Kosuke Fukudome. The Canadians would score single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to creep within five runs, with Jeremy Ware (Expos) contributing a solo homer, but Japan put the game away with three more runs in the eighth.
In the medal round, both Cuba and Japan started lefthanded pitchers against Canada, which has a predominantly lefthanded lineup even without the presence of Justin Morneau (Twins). Canada lacked a big righthanded bat to keep either starter honest.
"No one on the team is happy," said catcher Pierre-Luc LaForest (Devil Rays), one of Canada's big lefthanded bats. "We did not come here for a (vacation); that is why we are sad to go back home empty-handed."
Johnson took the loss for Canada after lasting only 2 1/3 innings and allowing six runs on five hits with two walks. Todd Betts (Yankees) had two of the five Canada hits to lead the offense.
Cuba pounced out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but Canada took the lead off lefthander Adiel Palma with a run in the third and two in the fifth on a two-out, two-run single by Adam Stern (Braves). Canada had nine hits and left nine runners on base in the game.
Andrew Kitick, an assistant sports information director at the University of South Carolina, is serving as a media liaison for the International Baseball Federation at the 2004 Olympics and will provide reports from Athens throughout the tournament. Baseball Canada media liaison Matt Charbonneau also is contributing to BA's coverage.