Olympics-Baseball-U.S. win relegates Dominican Republic to bronze-medal game

YOKOHAMA, Japan, Aug 4 (Reuters) - The Dominican Republic’s baseball team will head to Saturday’s bronze-medal game after falling 3-1 on Wednesday to the United States, which earned a chance to punch an upgrade to the gold-medal contest.

The U.S. squad now faces the loser of Wednesday’s game between Japan and South Korea in a tussle on Thursday to decide which of them will go on to the gold medal game instead of the match for bronze. The winner in the Japan-South Korea tie will claim the other spot in the grand final.

U.S. first baseman Triston Casas in the first inning smacked his third home run of the tournament for a 2-0 lead over the Dominican Republic side. The hit came off his Boston Red Sox minor league team mate Denyi Reyes, who started for the Dominican Republic.

Tyler Austin added a run on a homer to straightway centerfield in the fifth inning, his second blast of the Games.

U.S. starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who came out of a surfing-filled retirement from professional baseball to make the Olympic run, allowed two hits and struck out five over five innings.

In the third inning, a long lead from third base by Dominican Jose Bautista led to a balk on Kazmir for a run. But umpires immediately reversed their balk call without a video review, pulling the run off the board.

In four innings against the U.S. bullpen the Dominican Republic had three hits. Two of them came in the seventh, an inning brought to an end when Bautista struck out on a check-swing. The other was a ninth-inning homer by Charlie Valerio.

Dominican’s Gustavo Nunez left the game during a seventh inning at-bat after appearing to hurt his torso on a swing. His replacement, Yefri Perez, eventually struck out to end the game.

The Dominican Republic came in to the blazing-hot day game worn from a difficult battle late on Tuesday in which they stayed alive in the tournament by eliminating Israel 7-6 with late rally.

In a sign of the team’s difficult schedule, fans watching back in the Dominican Republic were treated to two games in the same day, with 0600 and 2300 local time starts. (Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)