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Tokyo 2020

After trouncing by South Korea, Israeli Olympic baseball hopes hang on next game

Game ends 11-1 under ‘mercy rule’ that stops a game if one side is getting too far ahead of the other; Israeli squad to face Dominican Republic in knock-out round

Israel's Blake Gailen catches a sacrifice fly during a baseball game against South Korea at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Yokohama, Japan, August 2, 2021. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Israel's Blake Gailen catches a sacrifice fly during a baseball game against South Korea at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Yokohama, Japan, August 2, 2021. (Matt Slocum/AP)

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — After a crushing defeat against top contender South Korea on Monday, Israel’s Olympic baseball team was left with just one hope to remain in contention for a medal.

Israel lost 11-1 in a game that ended using the “mercy rule,” a regulation that stops a game if one side is getting too far ahead of the other.

The blue and white squad (1-3) will now play an elimination game Tuesday against the Dominican Republic (1-2).

If Israel wins, the team will still be in for a chance to win a medal, but a loss will send the team home.

South Korea (3-1), which had 18 hits, plays the United States or Japan on Wednesday for a berth in the gold medal game. South Korea beat Israel 6-5 in 10 innings in its opener in Japan.

Former big-league outfielder Hyun Soo Kim hit a two-run homer off Pittsburgh front office assistant Jeremy Bleich and scored the game-ending run in South Korea’s victory over Israel.

South Korea’s Hyeseong Kim, right, reaches first base for a single past Israel’s Jeremy Bleich during a baseball game at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug. 2, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Soo, who played for Baltimore and Philadelphia in 2016, homered against Bleich to cap a seven-run fifth inning. Bleich retired in 2019 and prepares advance scouting reports for the Pirates.

Soo hit his second double of the game with two outs in the seventh off 42-year-old right-hander Shlomo Lipetz, who will return to his day job at New York’s City Winery after the Olympics. Soo scored on Hye-seong Kim’s single, making this the first game of the tournament cut short under an Olympic rout rule.

Major League Baseball does not allow 40-man roster players to go to the Olympics, and many teams block top eligible prospects.

Ji-hwan Oh hit a two-run homer in the second as South Korea took a 3-0 lead. Baek-ho Kang had four hits.

Starter Min-woo Kim allowed two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He walked a batter in the fifth, and Won-joon Choi walked two batters and hit one, forcing in a run with a bases-loaded walk to Danny Valencia that cut the lead to 3-1.

Israel’s Danny Valencia plays during a baseball game at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug. 2, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sang-woo Cho (1-0) retired Ryan Lavarnway on an inning-ending humpback liner to the pitcher.

South Korea broke open the game in the bottom half against Chicago Cubs minor leaguer Alex Katz, who was charged with six runs — five earned — in one-third of an inning.

Joey Wagman (0-2), released from Oakland’s farm system in 2018, faced 22 batters and gave up three runs, 10 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.

So far Israel has won a gold medal and two bronzes at the Tokyo Games. Gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won the gold medal, only the second-ever for Israel, for his floor routine in the men’s gymnastics event on Monday.

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