US qualifies for Olympic baseball; Todd Frazier HR, 4 hits

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The United States qualified for the Olympic baseball tournament on its second try, beating Venezuela 4-2 Saturday night behind Todd Frazier’s home run, four hits and two RBIs.

The U.S., managed by Mike Scioscia, finished 4-0 to win the Americas qualifying tournament and joined Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at Olympic baseball, to be played in Japan from July 28 to Aug. 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.

Edwin Jackson got the win in the clincher and fellow former big leaguer David Robertson earned a save.

Venezuela advanced to a final qualifying tournament from June 22-26 in Puebla, Mexico, which will determine one more qualifier from a field that also includes Australia, the Dominican Republic, Netherlands and Taiwan.

Frazier, a 35-year-old two-time All-Star, singled leading off the fourth against Aníbal Sánchez and scored on Eric Filia’s two-run homer onto the right field berm. Frazier hit an RBI double in the fifth for a 3-1 lead off Danny Rondon and homered in the seventh against Erick Leal, a drive off the facing of the bar behind the left-field wall.

Frazier was 3 for 35 for Pittsburgh this season before he was released on May 13.

Venezuela went ahead in the on a third-inning home run by Hernán Pérez, who signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee last month after he was released by Washington. Pérez’s home run came off Cardinals prospect Matthew Liberatore.

Venezuela loaded the based with one out in the first before Oakland Athletics minor leaguer Carlos Pérez hit a grounder to third, where Frazier started an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

Brandon Dickson, who wasted a ninth-inning lead against Mexico in November 2019 when the U.S. was three outs from qualifying at the Premier12 tournament, escaped two-on trouble in the fifth when Juniel Querecuto grounded to Frazier, then allowed an RBI double in the sixth to Washington Nationals prospect Ramón Flores that cut the lead to 3-2.

Liberatore, in his second start of the tournament, allowed one run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings

Jackson, a 37-year-old veteran of a record 14 major league teams, pitched two hitless innings for the win. Sanchez took the loss.

Robertson, who last pitched in the major leagues for Philadelphia in 2019, struck out two in a hitless ninth around a walk for his second save of the tournament. He retired pinch-hitter Alexander Palma, a Milwaukee prospect, on a grounder to Frazier for the final out.

Pérez had three hits of Venezuela’s seven hits.

Japan, which is stopping the Central and Pacific League seasons to make its top players available, is considered the Olympic favorite. Major League Baseball doesn’t allowed its big league players to participate and MLB general managers often discourage the use of top eligible prospects.

Teams can change their roster before heading to Japan.

Baseball is returning to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016. Cuba won the gold medal in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the United States in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.

Baseball is likely to be dropped for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and then restored again for 2028 in Los Angeles.

The Dominican Republic beat Canada 6-5 in the earlier game to finish 2-1 and advance to the final qualifier. Gustavo Núñez and Julio Rodríguez hit run-scoring singles off former Yankees prospect Evan Rutckyj in the eighth inning after a run-scoring single by Tigers prospect Daniel Pinero gave Canada a 5-4 lead in the top half.

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