USA vs. Japan Olympic Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Bet Baseball Gold Medal Game in Tokyo (August 7)

USA vs. Japan Olympic Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Bet Baseball Gold Medal Game in Tokyo (August 7) article feature image
Credit:

Koji Watanabe/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Scioscia and Team USA.

  • Team USA goes for its first gold medal since 2000 in the Olympic baseball final on Saturday morning against Japan.
  • Japan was the pre-tournament favorite and enters this game as considerable favorites as well.
  • Collin Whitchurch previews the game and makes his betting pick below.

USA vs. Japan Odds

USA Odds +165
Japan Odds -195
Over/Under 8.5 (-110 / -110)
Time 6 a.m. ET
TV NBCSN
Odds as of Friday at noon ET and via DraftKings.

The Team USA baseball team advanced to the gold-medal game with a 7-2 win over South Korea on Thursday morning. The Americans are guaranteed a medal but will be looking for their first gold since 2000 as they take on host national and tournament favorite Japan on Saturday morning.

This game is a rematch from August 2 when Team USA was handed their only loss of the tournament. The Americans led 6-5 entering the ninth inning, only to see Japan score one in the ninth off David Robertson and another in the 10th off Edwin Jackson for the comeback win.

Japan entered the tournament as favorites to win the whole thing and is undefeated in the tournament, with the comeback against Team USA representing their closest call. Japan is favored to win the rematch, but should they be? Let’s take a look.

Parallels to 2000 Sydney Olympics

Since the rosters were announced, this Team USA has drawn plenty of parallels to the 2000 Sydney Olympics team that went on a Cinderella run to gold.

That team featured a couple of top prospects — most notably Ben Sheets and Doug Mientkiewicz — some veterans at the tail ends of their careers — most notably Pat Borders — and a Hall of Fame manager at the helm in Tommy Lasorda.

This year’s team is built similarly. (As a reminder, roster rules for Team USA state that competing players most not be on an MLB 40-man roster to be eligible to compete.) The top prospects include Boston’s Triston Casas and Tampa’s Shane Baz, while American baseball fans will recognize veterans Robertson, Scott Kazmir and Todd Frazier from their long careers in Major League Baseball. Former Angels skipper and 2002 World Series champion Mike Scioscia is at the helm.

The parallels continue in the way this tournament has played out. In 2000, Team USA lost to tournament favorite Cuba — led by future World Series hero Jose Contreras — in group play, only to get a rematch for gold. The Cubans used Contreras in the semifinal, so Team USA faced normal closer Pedro Luis Lazo in the final. With ace and future Brewers standout Sheets on the mound, the Americans claimed a 4-0 upset win for their first and only gold medal in baseball.

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Nick Martinez vs. Masato Morishita

Team USA’s path to this point has been all about pitching. Between Kazmir, Baz, Joe Ryan and Nick Martinez, in five games the Americans have seen their starting pitchers toss 23 innings and allow just five earned runs with 23 strikeouts and five walks.

Baz started the previous game against Japan, allowing two runs while lasting just 2 2/3 innings, and the Americans will turn to Martinez on Saturday. The 31-year-old who pitched four seasons for the Texas Rangers from 2014-17 put together what was probably the team’s best start of the tournament in a matchup with the Dominican Republic. He went five innings and allowed one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.

Martinez also gives the Americans a bit of an immeasurable edge we’ve seen throughout the roster in that playing in Japan — the ballparks, the time zone difference — isn’t a shock to him. The right-hander has plied his trade in Japan for the last four seasons, pitching in the NPB for the Nippon Ham Fighters and this year, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. In his NPB career, Martinez has thrown 308 2/3 innings with a 3.44 ERA, 231 strikeouts and 96 walks.

Masato Morishita will take the mound for Japan. The 24-year-old has started one game in the tournament thus far in the preliminary round against Mexico. He went five innings and allowed two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and zero walks.

The right-hander is one of the more dynamic pitchers in the NPB where he plays for the Hiroshima Carp. He was the 2020 Rookie of the Year in the Japan Central League and has a 2.15 ERA and 201 strikeouts against 59 walks in his professional career.

USA-Japan Pick

Japan are the favorites for a reason, and part of that has to do with the offense. For the tournament, the Japanese offense is hitting .288/.363/.403 in four games. Most impressive is their patience as four of the team’s top hitters have drawn at least three walks, and another two have a pair. And they’ve done this all with cleanup hitter Seiya Suzuki going a pedestrian 1-for-15 thus far.

It’s also important to remember that Japan has played one fewer game than Team USA and has an extra day of rest, having last played on Tuesday against South Korea.

I mentioned the unusual edge the Americans have with Martinez being familiar with pitching in Japan, and that’s been something of a trend for this roster. Teams in the NPB have increasingly been signing international players, and Team USA features a handful of players who either currently or previously have played professionally in Japan, including Martinez, Tyler Austin (a breakout star for the Americans in the tournament), Anthony Carter, Brandon Dickson and Scott McGough. It’s unquantifiable, but the familiarity surely makes some sort of difference.

Japan should walk away with the gold, but Team USA has been proving doubters wrong for most of the tournament (they entered with the third-best odds to win gold in the six-team field). Given how close they came to winning the first matchup with Japan, I’d give them a better chance than the 37.8% their +165 odds imply.

I will take a stab at Team USA at those odds but feel more comfortable with the total. I’m confident in both Martinez’s and Morishita’s ability to carve up the opposing lineups, and both bullpens have held up well for a majority of the decision. I’ll bet under 8.5 at -110 and would do so to -115.

Pick: Under 8.5 (-110 to -115)

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