Team USA takes bronze with 8-4 win
Four-run fifth inning lifts U.S. to win over Japan
Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.) added home runs as well, as the U.S. rallied from an early three-run deficit to earn the victory. Team USA finishes Olympic competition with a 6-3 record.
Down 4-1 entering the bottom of the third inning, the U.S. mounted its rally on the back of a three-run homer by Brown. Brian Barden (Templeton, Calif.) would reach base to lead off the inning on a dropped fly by left fielder Takahiko Sato. After a walk to Jayson Nix (Dallas, Texas), Team USA tied the game when Brown launched a homer to left-center, after fouling off several full-count pitches from Japan starter Tsuyoshi Wada. The home run tied the game at 4-4..
With the score still tied in the bottom of the fifth, the U.S. went ahead by four runs on the back of two key two-out RBI hits from Teagarden and Donald. With runners on the corners, Teagarden laced a double off the wall in right center scoring Brown and Nate Schierholtz (Danville, Calif.) giving the U.S. a two-run cushion. That lead would then extend to 8-4 as Donald ripped a two-run homer off the left field foul pole.
Starting pitcher Brett Anderson (Midland, Texas) settled in after giving up two early home runs and picked up the victory for Team USA after seven innings of work. Anderson allowed four runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks. Japan reliever Kenshin Kawakami suffered the loss after 2 1/3 innings of work in which he allowed four runs on four hits.
"It was a great game," said manager Davey Johnson. "Our bats woke up, and Brett really pitched a great ballgame. He had a little trouble in the second and third inning -- I guess his rhythm was a little off. He wasn't locating pitches like he would like to. He gave up a couple of home runs, but then he settled down and really won the game for us. He was very dominant after the home run by [Japan's] right fielder. Our big bat, Matt Brown did a heck of a job, and Jason Donald has played great the whole time. He hit a two-run shot that really put the game out of reach."
The U.S. finished with a 9-6 advantage in hits, including two hits apiece from Brown, LaPorta and Donald. Brown, Teagarden and Donald drove in seven of the nine runs for the U.S. Donald finished the Olympics leading the U.S. in hitting with a .381 average (8-for-21). Brown was the team's leading run producer with 10 RBI as well as a pair of homers. LaPorta also hit two homers for the competition.
"I thought we did a great job today," said Jason Donald. "After last night and coming into today, we could have folded really easily, especially when they got up, 4-1. I think we just kept fighting and kept having great at-bats knowing that we had a good amount of time in the ball game. It was a great win. We would have liked to have won a gold [medal], but we won today, and getting out of here with a medal -- that is huge."
Both teams used home runs in the early innings to get on the scoreboard. Japan's Masahiro Araki knocked a one-out solo shot to left field in the top of the first with LaPorta answering for the U.S. with a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the second.
The home run continued to be the story of the game as Japan went ahead 4-1 on Norichika Aoki's three-run homer in the top of the third inning. Walks issued to both Shuichi Murata and Tsuyoshi Nishioka set the stage for Aoki, who turned on a 2-0 pitch from Anderson for the second homer of the game for Japan.
That would be it for Japan, though, as Anderson and reliever Kevin Jepsen (Anaheim, Calif.) shut down the Japanese the rest of the way through.
The bronze medal is the second won by the United States in Olympic baseball competition. The first came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Notes: In attendance at Saturday's bronze-medal game was President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, as well as former MLB player and manager Bobby Valentine. Valentine currently manages in Japan for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League.