|South Korea 6, Japan 2
Cuba 10, U.S. 2
|Bronze Medal Game:
U.S. vs. Japan, 10:30
Gold Medal Game:
South Korea vs. Cuba, 6
Team USA Update: There’s not much to second-guess after Cuba’s 10-2 thrashing of Team USA. Starter Stephen Strasburg struggled to wriggle out of a couple of jams, and Cuba’s power was on display, as Alexei Bell, Frederich Cepeda, Alfredo Despaigne and Ariel Pestano all homered. The U.S. will look to wins its third Olympic medal when it plays Japan for the bronze Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Noting: Whether it wins the gold or settle for silver, South Korea has had an Olympics to remember. After going undefeated in the round-robin, South Korea beat Japan for a second time Thursday night to clinch a spot in the gold medal game. Slugger Lee Seung-Yeop, one of the greatest hitters in Korean history, is in the middle of a miserable slump, but he did provide the big blow against Japan, as he hit a two-run home run in the eighth to break a 2-2 tie. Yeop was hitting only .136 heading into the game.
South Korea added two more runs later in the inning thanks in large part to left fielder Akihiro Sato’s dropped fly ball. The win means that 14 of South Korea’s players are now exempt from the mandatory two years of military service that all South Korean men are required to serve.
News: Even though he’s still an amateur, Stephen Strasburg is probably the biggest prospect on Team USA, especially with Matt LaPorta sidelined with a concussion. Strasburg showed his dominating fastball and slider against Cuba, but he also found that against more experienced hitters, his lack of a changeup is a weakness. Strasburg struck out six in four innings, but Cuba also forced him to work deep counts throughout his four innings. Johnson pulled him because he had already thrown 75 pitches . . . If you’re looking for a potential future major league star playing on Team Cuba, Alexei Bell couldn’t have put on much more of a show for major league scouts. Just 5-foot-9, Bell hit his first home run of the tournament, but also improved his average to 517 (15-for-29) with three doubles and four triples. Bell’s defense is subpar in right field—as he showed with a two-base error against Team USA—but his swing and bat speed make him an impressive prospect, eliciting comparisons as an offensive player to Kirby Puckett and Jimmy Wynn from scouts . . . Catcher Lou Marson (Phillies) went 1-for-4 with an RBI. He also managed to stay in the game after getting hit in the hand on a follow-through by a Cuban hitter. Marson’s Reading teammate Jason Donald and Nate Schierholtz (Giants) also had singles . . . Brian Duensing (Twins) pitched effectively once again, although he did give up a long home run. For the tournament, Duensing was 1-0, 1.17 in 7 2/3 innings.
For Today: If South Korea beats Cuba for the gold medal, it will rank as one of the great upsets in Olympics history (challenged by Australia’s semifinal win over Daisuke Matsuzaka and Japan in 2004 and the U.S.’ gold medal win over Cuba in 2000). South Korea may be undefeated in this year’s tournament, but Cuba has history and big-game experience on its side. The U.S. will have a uphill battle to win the bronze, as Japan will likely send ace Yu Darvish to the mound. Team USA will likely counter with A’s lefthander Brett Anderson.