Baseball returned to the Summer Olympics this year for the first time since 2008, and the host nation won its first ever baseball gold medal. Japan defeated Team USA 2-0 in the gold medal game. Their best previous finish was a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Masato Morishita and the Japanese bullpen shut down the USA bats en route to the victory. Morishita threw five innings of shutout ball, striking out five batters and giving up three hitters. Four relievers then combined for four innings of three-hit ball to secure the victory.
Japan got just enough offense to secure the win. Third baseman Munetaka Murakami hit a solo home run in the third inning and designated hitter Tetsuto Yamada scored on a throwing error in the eighth inning to add some insurance.
Nick Martinez pitched well for the Americans, giving up only one run over six innings while striking out five. However, the offense simply could not get going. The team managed six hits and rarely threatened. In the 5th, Nick Allen singled with two outs and Jack Lopez was hit by a pitch before the third out was recorded. In the 6th, Tyler Austin walked to lead off the inning and Eric Filia was hit by a pitch with two outs before the third out was recorded. The only time the US advanced a runner to third was in the 7th inning. Allen hit a one-out double in the 7th inning and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice. However, Eddy Alvarez grounded out to end the inning.
This is the fourth time Team USA has medaled in six Olympic baseball tournaments. After losing the bronze medal game to Japan in 1992 when baseball was moved from demonstration sport to medal sport, the US won bronze in 1996. They then won gold in 2000 with a final win over Cuba. The US did not qualify for the 2004 Olympic tournament and then won bronze in 2008 before baseball was removed as an Olympic sport for two Olympiads.