BEIJING – Taylor Teagarden hit a tiebreaking two-run double and Jason Donald followed with a two-run homer in the fifth inning Saturday as the United States defeated Japan 8-4 to capture the bronze medal in the Beijing Olympic baseball tournament.
Tied 4-4, Matt Brown had a one-out double and Nate Schierholtz walked before Teagarden’s double and Donald’s shot off Kenshin Kawakami dealt a killer blow to the Japanese, who went home empty-handed after their hopes for a first Olympic baseball gold were dashed with a semifinal defeat by South Korea on Friday.
The United States, which lost 10-2 to defending champion Cuba in the semis, took its third baseball medal, having previously won a gold and a bronze, since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1992. Baseball will be dropped along with softball from the 2012 London Olympics.
“The result is what you see,” said Japanese manager Senichi Hoshino. “Yesterday, we lost a good game and we tried to change our mental attitude to play hard in this game today.”
“Of course I want to say sorry to our fans in Japan who expected a gold medal. We had intended to show what Japanese baseball is to everyone and this is the first time we have experienced something like this,” he added.
Chunichi Dragons infielder Masahiro Araki hit a solo drive to left with one out in the first inning to give Japan a 1-0 lead.
But Team USA bounced back in the second with a two-out solo blast to right by Matt LaPorta. After LaPorta’s homer, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada dug himself into a hole by walking two consecutive batters but escaped the jam.
Norichika Aoki broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer in the third but again the Americans came roaring back with Brown’s three-run shot off Wada to retie the game in the bottom half.
Brian Barden reached on some more shaky defense from left fielder Takahiko G.G. Sato, who dropped the ball after losing it in the glare of the sun, and the next batter walked, putting runners at first and second to set up Brown’s blast to left-center.
Sato made what turned out to be two costly errors in Japan’s 6-2 loss to South Korea in the semifinals the previous day.
In the decisive fifth, the American minor leaguers pounced on Chunichi right-hander Kawakami, who had relieved Wada with two outs in the third. With two outs and runners on the corners following Brown’s double and a walk for Schierholtz, Teagarden put the United States ahead for the first time in the game with his double off the wall in right and Donald extended the lead to four runs with his two-run drive to left field.
U.S. starter Brett Anderson preserved the lead from then on and left after seven innings, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out six. Kevin Jepsen worked the final two innings.