The Mercury News

Baseball: Scott Kazmir helps U.S. team stay alive.

- By Ronald Blum

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN >> For Triston Casas, the Olympics feel as comfortabl­e as spring training.

That’s because when he stepped to the plate in the United States’ eliminatio­n game against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, he was facing Boston Red Sox Double-A teammate Denyi Reyes.

“I have one career at-bat off of him in spring training, and I hit a home run over the batter’s eye, as well,” Casas said after he crushed a two-run, first-inning drive that started the Americans to a 3-1 win. “So 2 for 2 with a walk.”

Tyler Austin, a former major leaguer in his home ballpark of the Central League’s Yokohama Bay Stars, added a solo home run in the fifth against Gabriel Arias, his second long ball of the tournament to go with a .412 average and five RBIs.

The U.S. (3-1) plays defending champion South Korea (3-2) tonight for a spot in Saturday’s gold medal game, with the loser facing the Dominicans (2-3) for the bronze. Japan (4-0) beat South Korea 5-2 to earn a spot in the title game.

Scott Kazmir (1-0), who pitched three games for the Giants this season, escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first. The 37-year-old left-hander pitched two-hit ball over five scoreless innings, retiring 14 of his final

15 batters around José Bautista’s leadoff double in the third.

“I felt like I still had a lot in me,” Kazmir said.

A 21-year-old first baseman at Portland, Maine, Casas homered following a one-out walk to Austin. Casas, batting .313 with eight RBIs, was the 26th overall pick in the 2018 draft and is hitting .271 with six homers and 30 RBIs for the Sea Dogs this season.

Reyes (0-1), a 24-year-old right-hander, allowed two runs and two hits in four innings.

Before he made two starts and a relief appearance for the Giants in late May and June, Kazmir had not pitched in the major leagues since 2016. He hopes he can get signed for later this season or 2022.

“I have two little boys,” Kazmir said. “I want them

to see me play and not just see a video or anything like that. I feel like that’s a huge motivation for me.”

Kazmir was available for the Olympics because he was assigned outright to Triple-A Sacramento on June 11.

“He fell under a rock. I think he got designated for assignment at the right time when we were about ready to make some decisions in putting our club together,” U.S. manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt he can pitch in the major leagues and be very effective, and I’m sure that’s going to happen at some point.”

Kazmir started on 16 days’ rest on a broiling day with a 90-degree temperatur­e at game time and high humidity. With a fastball in the 91 mph range and a cutter he’s developed, he threw 77 pitches, struck out five and walked one.

 ?? YUICHI MASUDA — GETTY IMAGES/TNS ?? Scott Kazmir, who pitched for the Giants this season, went five scoreless innings in Team USA’s victory Wednesday.
YUICHI MASUDA — GETTY IMAGES/TNS Scott Kazmir, who pitched for the Giants this season, went five scoreless innings in Team USA’s victory Wednesday.

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