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U.S. baseball beats Venezuela, qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Spectators take photos of the Olympic rings at the top of Mt. Takao in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan on April 18, 2021. The Olympic baseball tournament is set to run from July 28 to Aug. 7. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Spectators take photos of the Olympic rings at the top of Mt. Takao in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan on April 18, 2021. The Olympic baseball tournament is set to run from July 28 to Aug. 7. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- The United States qualified for the Olympic baseball tournament after its 4-2 win over Venezuela on Saturday at the New York Mets' spring training ballpark in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The Americans used 35-year-old Todd Frazier's 4-for-4 performance to earn a berth in the Tokyo Games. His night included a solo home run, an RBI double, two singles and a stolen base.

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"He's a guy that has kind of cemented the team. He's the keystone," U.S. manager Mike Scioscia said after the victory.

Frazier, a two-time MLB All-Star selection, singled to lead off the fourth inning and scored on Eric Filia's two-run homer. Later in the fifth, Frazier hit an RBI double off Danny Rondon to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead.

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Frazier, who was 3-for-35 for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season before being released in May, then homered in the seventh against Erick Leal to help clinch his country's spot in this year's Olympics.

"I had one of my better games I've had in a long time," Frazier said. "And I just kept telling myself I'm not letting this slip away. ... Playing for your country, it's the coolest thing in the world."

Edwin Jackson, 37, pitched two hitless innings for the win. David Robertson, who last pitched in the major leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, struck out two in the ninth to record his second save of the tournament.

The U.S. finished 4-0 to win the Americas qualifying tournament, joining Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea in the Olympics. That tourney will take place in Japan from July 28 to Aug. 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.

Japan, which is halting the Central and Pacific League seasons to make its top players available to compete, is considered the favorite to win the Olympic tournament. Major League Baseball doesn't allow its big league players to participate, and MLB general managers often dissuade the use of top prospects.

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Baseball is returning to the Olympics after the sport was dropped for 2012 and 2016. Cuba won the gold medal in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the U.S. in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.

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