U.S. Tops Korea 4-2 To Claim No. 1 Seed For Knockout Rounds
Triston Casas’ two-run home run gave Team USA an early lead and a dominating performance by five U.S. pitchers led it to a 4-2 win over South Korea in the final game of Olympics group play.
The win means that Team USA remains undefeated and has advanced out of group play as Group B’s No. 1 seed. In a short Olympic tournament, that provides plenty of advantages going forward.
By winning Group B, the U.S. avoids having to play in the first round of the knockout round. The U.S. and Japan (the No. 1 seed out of Group A) advance directly to the second round, putting them in better shape to preserve their limited pitching. Both the U.S. and Japan are now just one win away from the semifinals. Everyone else is at least two wins away from the semifinals.
The No. 2 seeds (South Korea and the Dominican Republic) and No. 3 seeds (Israel and Mexico) will play each other, with the winners of those games facing off. The winner of that game will play the winner of the U.S.-Japan game.
The story of Team USA’s first two games has been its pitching. Nick Martinez gave up singles to the first two batters of the game, and a fielder’s choice then drove in Park Hae-Min to give South Korea an early 1-0 lead.
Nick Allen added a solo home run in the fifth inning, and the U.S. followed that with three straight singles. The third, a Tyler Austin grounder up the middle, scored Jamie Westbrook to widen the U.S. lead to 4-1.
South Korea didn’t score again until the ninth. Martinez struck out nine in five innings of work. Scott McGough, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Gose combined to keep Korea off the board in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Closer David Robertson ran into a little more trouble. He walked Kang Baek-Ho. Yang Eui-Ji then doubled, and a sacrifice fly by Oh Jae-Il drove in Kang. That brought the tying run to the plate with just one out in the ninth.
But Robertson struck out Oh Ji-Hwan. Hur Kyoung-Min hit a screaming ground ball down the third base line, but Jack Lopez, just inserted into the game by U.S. manager Mike Scioscia as a defensive replacement, made a backhand scoop and bounced an accurate throw that beat Hur to the bag, completing the U.S. win.