Well, Japan squeaked into the medal round of the Olympics with a 4-3 record in group play. Japan is the 4th seed and draws top-ranked Korea in the opening game of the medal round.
Japan blew out Taiwan, the Netherlands and China, edged Canada, and lost to Cuba, Korea, and the United States. Japan beat the teams it needed to beat, and lost to the stronger competitors. The loss to Cuba was the only game that Japan didn't have a chance to win, mostly due to Yu Darvish's disappointing performance (5 earned runs, 12 baserunners in 4 IP).
The losses to Korea and the USA were closer - both games were tied until the late innings. Japan had Korea tied 2-2 going into the 9th, but Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase gave up 3 runs in 1 1/3 IP to take the loss. Simon from jhockey does a much better job breaking down the game than I could possibly do here.
Japan and the US took a scoreless tie into the 11th, when the lottery tie-breaker rule kicked in. Japan left Iwase on the hill for a second inning and he gave up 4 runs. Japan responded with 2 in the bottom of the inning but that obviously wasn't enough to win. I'll have to admit that I didn't see Iwase pitch in the Olympics, so I don't know what kind of impression he'll have made on the many scouts present.
I'm a little disappointed to see Japan and Korea play in the first game of the medal round. I don't really want to see either of these teams go home without a medal, but one of them will (what was I thinking - the loser will have a shot at the bronze). A Japan-Korea gold medal game would have been phenomenal but that isn't going to happen.
I'll close out this post with some random Olympic-related notes and articles I've picked up over the last week. These links are all to Japanese articles:
- Looks like manager Senichi Hoshino might be leaning toward starting lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi against Korea. "Korea is weak against southpaws," said Hoshino.
- Play continued after three outs in the sixth inning of the US game. The last batter for the US popped out to center, but the teams failed to change sides and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka threw the first pitch to the next batter. Then Hoshino heard someone shout "change" from the audience and went out to complain to the umpire, who called the inning complete.
- Hoshino got himself ejected in the ninth inning of the Cuba game for arguing balls and strikes on Tomoya Satozaki's check swing, then picked up a $2,000 fine for failing to leave the field.
- Outfielder Atsunori Inaba credited his game-winning home run to being able to eat McDonald's, which he called a "mood lifter".
- Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka combined for seven scoreless innings against America after shaving their heads.
- Koji Uehara seems to have recovered his forkball and pitched well against Canada.
- The Major League scouts also have Yakult outfielder Norichika Aoki on their watch list as well as Chunichi pitcher and Taiwan representative Wei-Yin Chen.
And finally, John Donovan shares his picks for Japan's "Dream Team" simply by adding Japanese Major Leagurs to the existing Olympic roster.