YOKOHAMA, Japan — Eddy Alvarez became only the third American to earn medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics when the United States beat defending-champion South Korea 7-2 on Thursday night to gain a berth into this weekend’s gold-medal game against host Japan.
The former U.S. speedskater-turned-infielder wept in the dugout after the final out as teammates patted him on the back and offered handshakes and hugs.
After earning a silver in 2014 at Sochi as part of the U.S. four-man short track team, he’ll get at least a silver in baseball. The other Americans with summer and winter medals are Eddie Eagen (boxing in 1920, bobsled in 1932) and Lauryn Williams (track and field in 2004 and 2012, bobsled in 2014).
Jack López drove in his first two runs of the Olympics with RBI singles for his first two hits, Jamie Westbrook hit a solo homer, and Tyler Austin hit a two-run single as the U.S. built a 7-1 lead with a five-run sixth. Alvarez and Mark Kolozsvary also drove in runs.
The U.S. team of prospects and released veterans, seeking the Americans’ second baseball gold medal and first since 2000, improved to 4-1 and will play Japan (5-0) on Saturday night.
Japan, which stopped its major league season to make top players available for the Olympics, defeated the U.S. 7-6 in 10 innings on Monday in the double-elimination second round.
South Korea (3-3) faces the Dominican Republic (2-3) for the bronze.
At the final out, a line drive caught by reliever Anthony Carter, Alvarez raised his right arm in triumph, then raised both arms and hugged shortstop Nick Allen.
A 31-year-old infielder with the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Alvarez and his team came up 0.271 seconds short of the Russians in the 5,000-meter relay in 2014. He’s hoping this time to finish the job against another host nation.
Alvarez made his major league debut last season when the Marlins’ roster was decimated by the coronavirus, hitting .189 with no RBIs in 12 games.
Eagen earned a gold in light heavyweight boxing in 1920 and a gold in the four-man bobsled in 1932.
Williams won silver in the 100-meter sprint in 2004, gold in the 400 relay in 2012 despite not running in the final and a silver in the two-woman bobsled in 2014.
Ryder Ryan (1-0), a 26-year-old right-hander at Texas’ Triple-A Round Rock, pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings for the Americans’ second win over South Korea following a 4-2 victory in the first round.
U.S. starter Joe Ryan, a 25-year-old right-hander obtained by the Twins in last month’s trade that sent Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay, allowed four hits in 4 1/3 innings and left with a 2-1 lead. South Korea stacked its batting order with six left-handed hitters, likely taking notice of his minor league righty/lefty splits.
López, a 28-year-old infielder promoted to Triple-A Worcester by the Red Sox in May, lined a two-out RBI single in the second for his first hit in eight Olympic at-bats. López is a nephew of former big league shortstop Onix Concepción.
Westbrook homered about 20 rows into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead in the fourth. The 26-year-old was demoted to Double-A Biloxi by Milwaukee in mid-May, then promoted back to Triple-A Nashville in early June.
Park Hae-Min chased Ryan with an RBI single in the fifth, and Ryan needed just two pitches to escape two-on trouble, getting Kang Baek-Ho to ground into an inning-ending double play.
American hitters batted around against four relievers in the sixth. Kolozsvary and López had RBI singles, Alvarez’s RBI grounder made it 5-1 and Austin, in his home ballpark of the Central League’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars, followed with a two-run single that gave him seven RBIs in the tournament.
Oh Ji-hwan hit an RBI double in the seventh off Scott McGough. Anthony Gose, throwing as much as 98 mph, relieved with two on and got a pair of called third strikes, then pitched a hitless eighth.