Outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi of the Yomiuri Giants drove in the tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday as Japan and Cuba played to a 1-1 tie in what could be a preview of the gold medal game at the Athens Olympics.
Playing before a crowd of 25,000 at Tokyo Dome, Yoshitomo Tani of the Orix BlueWave doubled to the wall in right field and scored on Takahashi’s double to center that fell just beyond the reach of outfielder Carlos Tabares.
Cuba is in Japan for a pair of warmup games ahead of the Olympics. The two teams are to play again Wednesday at the same venue.
Cuba scored their only run in the top of the fifth inning when Japan made three errors.
Frederich Cepeda reached first on a throwing error by shortstop Shinya Miyamoto and scored from second when pitcher Tamotsu Sakamoto threw wide of first base on Ariel Pestano’s grounder down the third base line.
Third baseman Makoto Kaneko made the third error of the inning on a Alexei Ramirez grounder but Sakamoto got Eduardo Paret to fly out to right to end the inning.
Cuba starter Adiel Palma gave up two hits over five scoreless innings while striking out seven before giving way to Jonder Martinez.
Cuba won the gold medal at Barcelona and Atlanta but had to settle for silver in Sydney, where the United States took home the gold.
Japan didn’t use their top pitchers for Tuesday’s games but Naoyuki Shimizu of the Chiba Lotte Marines combined with four relievers to hold Cuba to one run on three hits over the distance.
Japan, the Atlanta Olympic silver medalists, failed to win a medal at Sydney but will be a gold medal favorite for the Aug. 13-29 Athens Games with a team made up of professionals.
With former Yomiuri player and manager Shigeo Nagashima still sidelined as a result of a stroke he suffered in March, the team was led on Tuesday by another former Giant, Kiyoshi Nakahata.
Wait and see
Japanese baseball officials will decide whether to let Shigeo Nagashima, who is recuperating from a stroke, skipper the national team at the Athens Olympics just before the Aug. 13 opening of the Games, Nagashima’s son Kazushige said Tuesday.
“I know it’s very inconvenient for many people, but we will not make a final decision until the last minute,” Kazushige Nagashima said after a meeting of Japan’s Olympic players and coaching staff.
He said Kiro Osafune, who is responsible for team selection for the upcoming Olympics, has allowed Nagashima’s family to await his recovery and will let him go to Athens only for the semifinals and final if Japan progresses that far in the worst-case scenario.
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