US-POLITICS-OBAMA

Could Tokyo’s victory help baseball get back in Olympics?

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Nick Zaccardi covers Olympic sports in OlympicTalk. He’s crossing over to HBT for this post. For more on this topic, click here.

Sports Nippon, one of Japan’s leading sports newspapers, had the number 20, not 2020, splashed on its front page of Saturday’s edition.

The centerpiece photo was of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka fist pumping as he raised his record for the season to a record-tying 20-0.

That’s how big baseball is in Japan. Going into the day Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics, baseball was the biggest story.

No doubt, any fan of baseball (and softball) to get back into the Olympics smiled when Tokyo defeated Istanbul and Madrid in Saturday’s International Olympic Committee vote held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here’s why:

Baseball and softball are in a combined bid to rejoin the Olympics for 2020 and 2024. Another IOC vote will be held Sunday, choosing one sport from baseball-softball, squash and wrestling to add to the Olympic program. Wrestling is considered the front-runner, baseball-softball in second and squash third.

Tokyo’s win Saturday could give baseball-softball a boost. Japan looks upon baseball and softball more favorably than perhaps any other nation. It’s got the success to back it up.

Japan won the first two World Baseball Classics (2006, 2009), which has replaced the Olympics as baseball’s major international tournament. Japan also won the last Olympic softball title in 2008. Both sports were cut from the Olympics in 2005, with the exclusion taking effect beginning with the London 2012 Games.

“If Tokyo wins the honor to host the Olympic Games in 2020, I believe baseball and softball competitions will deliver the peak of Olympic sport, capturing the full attention of our entire nation and others around the world,” said legendary Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 career home runs, according to a release from the World Baseball Softball Confederation. “The electrifying atmosphere of Japan playing at home for the gold medal would give the ballplayers and the fans the most unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Granted, IOC members must consider the future of the Olympics and not just a single Games in Tokyo. And keep this in mind: Japan won gold in three of the four women’s wrestling weight classes in 2012. Wrestling’s proposal to stay in the Games includes adding two women’s weight classes.

Jeurys Familia blew another save

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 26: Pitcher Jeurys Familia #27 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning during game two of a doubleheader at Citi Field on July 26, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 3-1.(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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Usually, a pitcher blowing two saves isn’t noteworthy, even if it’s on back-to-back days. But Mets closer Jeurys Familia had successfully saved 52 consecutive games before the Cardinals put an end to that on Wednesday night.

The Mets opened up a four-game home series against the Rockies on Thursday afternoon. Because Familia had appeared in consecutive games, manager Terry Collins told the media, including MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, after last night’s game that the right-hander would get a day off and Addison Reed would serve as the fill-in closer.

The Mets rode a 1-0 lead through eight innings and wouldn’t you know it, Familia took the hill to start the ninth inning. Things quickly got out of hand. Trevor Story led the inning off with a single, then stole second base. David Dahl drew a walk, and Daniel Descalso followed up by loading the bases with a bunt single thanks in large part to a mental error by catcher Rene Rivera.

Familia then got Cristhian Adames on what could’ve been a game-ending 1-6-3 double play. But first baseman James Loney booted the ball, allowing a run to score and everyone else to advance safely. Even if Loney got the ball, though, Familia wasn’t anywhere close to first base to cover on a double play attempt. Charlie Blackmon stepped to the plate and Familia uncorked a wild pitch on a 1-1 fastball, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Collins ordered Familia to load the bases by intentionally walking Blackmon, then brought in Hansel Robles, who escaped the inning without any further damage by striking out D.J. LeMahieu and getting Nolan Arenado to pop up. The Mets were unable to get any offense going against Rockies closer Carlos Estevez, who set the side down in 1-2-3 fashion to lock up the 2-1 victory.

After Thursday’s outing, Familia is now 36-for-38 in save situations on the season with a 3.14 ERA and a 49/22 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings.

Phillies place Peter Bourjos on the DL and activate Aaron Altherr

Aaron Altherr
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
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The Phillies placed outfielder Peter Bourjos on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder sprain and activated outfielder Aaron Altherr from the 60-day disabled list, the club announced on Thursday.

Bourjos, 29, injured his shoulder robbing Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of a hit on Tuesday. It was a pretty nifty grab. He hits the DL with an uninspiring .253/.290/.384 triple-slash line but he had been on a hot streak, compiling a .938 OPS between June 21 and July 21. It’s also bad timing for the Phillies, who probably would have traded Bourjos ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

Altherr, 25, suffered a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist on a diving catch attempt in early March during spring training. He impressed in 161 plate appearances last season, batting .241/.338/.489 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 25 runs scored, and six stolen bases. Altherr is in Thursday’s starting lineup, batting fifth and playing right field.