Longtime big leaguer Todd Frazier banged out four hits, including a homer, leading the United States to a 4-2, Olympic-berth-clinching victory over Venezuela on Saturday night in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The Americans won the Baseball Americas Qualifier competition and will now join host Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at the six-team Olympic baseball tournament, to be played July 28 to Aug. 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.
The Dominican Republic and Venezuela finished second and third, respectively, in this competition and qualified for a final qualification tournament in Puebla, Mexico. The winner of that four-team tournament later this month, which will include Australia and Netherlands, claims the sixth and final Olympic spot.
The victorious U.S. team was comprised of promising minor leaguers, allowed to play in these Olympic qualifier games by their parent clubs, and veteran free agents looking to catch the eye of an MLB team.
- Seattle Mariners prospect Eric Filia hit a two-run homer off Venezuela starter Anibal Sanchez, a member of the 2019 World Series-champion Washington Nationals, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead that the U.S. would not relinquish.
- Frazier, who led his Toms River, New Jersey, team to the Little League World Series in 1998, was cut loose by the Pittsburgh Pirates in May. His seventh-inning blast, deep over the left-field wall at Clover Park, spring training home of the New York Mets, gave the Americans a crucial insurance run.
- Edwin Jackson, whose last MLB action was with the Detroit Tigers in 2019, pitched two innings of scoreless relief on Saturday to get the win.
- And the final three outs were recorded Saturday night by U.S. relief pitcher David Robertson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2019 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We knew this was not going to be an easy road; however, this squad personified the unyielding American spirit with grit and resilience in this tournament,” Seiler said in a statement. “We are thrilled for them, we celebrate their achievement, and we look forward to representing Team USA in the Olympic Games.”
Baseball had been played at the summer games from 1992 to 2008 but had been absent from the past two Olympics.
Despite the sport’s roots in America, the United States has generally shown well on the international stage but has been short of dominant.
The U.S. won gold in 2000 in Australia and bronze in 1996 and 2008. The Americans failed to qualify for the 2004 tournament.