Samurai Japan were firing on all cylinders in their game against Mexico on Saturday and looked like a team that could actually win a gold medal as they finished top of Group A and booked a spot in the quarterfinals.
Japan 7, Mexico 4
At Yokohama Stadium: Tetsuto Yamada and Hayato Sakamoto homered and Masato Morishita worked five innings to earn the win as Samurai Japan booked a spot in the quarterfinals with a 7-2 Group A win over Mexico.
Japan will now play the United States on Monday in the second quarterfinal after the Americans beat South Korea to win Group B.
The group stage’s second-place teams, the Dominican Republic and South Kora, and the two third-place teams, Mexico and Israel, will playoff to determine who will play the winner between the Japan-U.S. game in the semifinals.
Joey Meneses, who left Japan under a cloud when he failed a doping test in 2019 and had his contract voided by the Orix Buffaloes, continued to rock here in a Mexico uniform.
Meneses, who lit up Japan in international friendlies that year, singled in Isaac Rodriguez from second to open the scoring in bottom of the first against Masato Morishita. His single contributed to Mexico’s second run, and his two-run homer in the eighth off Seibu flame thrower Kaima Taira made it a three-run game.
Japan tied it against big lefty Juan Oramas in the top of the second on three singles by Hideto Asamura, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Takuya Kai. Sakamoto doubled and scored in the third after an error, a flyout and a groundout. Yamada’s home run made it 5-1.
Adrian Gonzalez grounded into double plays each of his first two times up against Morishita, one of them courtesy of some lightning-quick glove work by his Carp teammate Ryosuke Kikuchi at second. The second double play allowed a run to score in the bottom of the fourth.
Fighters rookie Hiromi Ito pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Morishita, and Taira pitched the eighth before another Carp, rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out.
Former Hanshin Tiger Efren Navarro went 0-for-4 with thee punch-outs.
United States 4, South Korea 2
At Yokohama Stadium: SoftBank Hawks right-hander Nick Martinez struck out nine of the 19 batters he faced as he allowed a run over five innings, while Tristan Casas hit a two-run home run, and Nick Allen a solo shot as the United States came back from an early 1-0 deficit.
Tyler Austin, who homered in Friday’s win over Israel, singled in a run to make it 4-1 in the fifth.
Yakult Swallows closer Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 sixth, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Thirty-seven-year-old Edwin Jackson Jr. got two outs in the seventh before Anthony Gose took over for 1-1/3 innings.
First-inning singles by Park Hae Min and Lee Jung Hoo allowed South Korea to take the lead in the first, while KT Wiz side-armer troubled the Americans for the first three innings. He hit Eddy Alvarez to open the fourth, and struck out Austin before Casas took him deep.
David Robertson entered in the ninth to close it out, but issued a leadoff walk to KT’s Kang Baek Ho, who scored after a double by NC Dinos’ Yang Eui Ji and an Oh Ji Hwan (LG Twins) sac fly.
The coronavirus score
Two days after Tokyo broke the 3,000 single-day infection barrier, the metropolitan government announced over 4,000 infections on Saturday, and the positivity rate is still climbing. It hit 19 percent on Friday, the highest rate of positive test results since April 22, 2020, when one had to be a close contact or near death with the proper symptoms in order to get a test in the first place.