Olympics Day Nine Wrapup
South Korea upsets Cuba for gold
Gold Medal Game:
|Bronze Medal Game:
U.S. 8, Japan 4
Gold Medal Game:
South Korea 3, Cuba 2
South Korea pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Olympics history as it
beat Cuba 3-2 behind an outstanding outing from Ryu Hyun-Jin.
Cuba had won three of the first four Olympic gold medals, while South Korea had won a solitary bronze in 2000. But South Korea made it clear that it was the class of this field, as it went a perfect 9-0 during the tournament, beating Cuba and Japan twice and bronze medalist Team USA once.
Ryu is arguably South Korea's top pitcher. He was the Korea Baseball Organization's rookie of the year and player of the year during his debut in 2006 as he led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He led the league in K's again last year.
Cuba quickly saw why, as Ryu baffled Cuban hitters with a changeup/screwball that kept hitters off-balance all night. Ryu made two
mistakes—Alexei Bell and Michel Enriquez hit solo home runs—but
otherwise, Korea's ace was in complete control, until the ninth.
In the ninth, home plate umpire Carlos Rey Cotto's
strike zone suddenly shrunk to microscopic size. Ryu gave up an inning-opening single, and
after a sacrifice bunt advanced the tying run to second, he walked the
next two batters, both times on borderline pitches. They were his first two walks of the night.
Catcher Kang Min-Ho got tired of his pitcher being squeezed and complained to Cotto after the second walk. Cotto quickly ejected him, as South Korean manager Kim Kyung-Moon ran out to try to calm the situation. At that
point, Kim decided to lift Ryu as well. It proved to be a wise call as sidearmer Chong Tae-Hyon quickly jumped up on Yuliesky Gourriel 0-2, then induced him to ground into a game-ending double play.
Hard-core Olympic fans may remember Chong as the submariner who gave Team USA fits in the 2000 Olympics, when he matched zeroes with Roy Oswalt
in the round-robin and nearly beat Team USA
in the semifinals.
While Ryu may be Korea's top current pitcher, Lee Seung-Yeop, Korea's
biggest hitting star of all time, provided the offensive heroics. Lee
set the Korea single-season home run record with 54 homers in 1999, broke his own record with 56 home runs in 2003, and
was a three-time league MVP. After doing all he could do in Korea,
Lee headed to Japan, where he's been one of the league's best power
hitters until a miserable 2008 season.
In South Korea, all of Lee's 2008 troubles will be forgotten. He hit
the crucial home run in the semifinal game as South Korea rallied to beat Japan,
and then hit a two-run home run in the first against Cuba to give South
Korea an early lead. Lee Yong-Kyu's RBI double in the seventh proved to be the game winner.
Team USA Update:
The U.S. will go home with a medal,
as Taylor Teagarden's two-run double and Jason Donald's two-run home run keyed Team USA's 8-4 win over Japan. It's the third medal for the U.S. baseball team joining their gold in 2000 and a bronze in 1996.
Matt LaPorta (Indians) and Jayson Nix (Rockies) both returned to action after injury-plagued Olympics. LaPorta (2-for-4) hit a two-run home run and Nix (1-for-4) scored a run. Phillies shortstop prospect Jason Donald (2-for-2) added a two-run home run on a line drive that hit the left field foul pole while Rangers catching prospect Taylor Teagarden (1-for-3) had a two-run double. Team USA starter Brett Anderson (Athletics) had some trouble early, but he settled down to allow four runs on six hits in seven innings . . . South Korean starter Ryu Hyun-Jin's fastball only sat in the high 80s, but the lefty's secondary stuff makes him extremely effective, as he shut down Cuba's high powered lineup, allowing two runs in 8 1/3 innings. Ryu allowed four hits, two walks and struck out seven. For the tournament he was 2-0, 1.04 with 13 strikeouts in 17 innings. He had shutout Canada in his first outing of the Olympics . . . Cuban right fielder Alexei Bell ended his outstanding Olympics in fine style. He hit his second home run of the medal round (and tournament) and finished the Olympics hitting .500 (16-for-32) with nine extra-base hits.