The U.S. baseball team had to settle for an Olympic bronze in baseball on Saturday, certainly not the color medal it had planned to bring home.
Taylor Teagarden hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the fifth and Jason Donald followed with a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole, lifting the United States to an 8-4 victory over Japan.
The Americans bounced back some 15 hours after a demoralizing 10-2 semifinal loss to defending champion Cuba, finding an answer on offense each time Japan took a lead.
Brett Anderson pitched eight solid innings for the U.S. (6-3), manager Davey Johnson's roster of top minor leaguers and one college standout in pitcher Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State.
Anderson, one of two starters on the roster from the Oakland Athletics' Double-A affiliate, allowed Norichika Aoki's go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the third but settled down and held the Japanese in check the rest of the way. Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless ninth but had the bases loaded when Shinnosuke Abe grounded out to first to end it.
The left-hander allowed four runs on five hits, struck out seven and walked three _ and the defense was more steady behind him than it had been in games the Americans lost during what for now was their final Olympic run. Baseball is coming off the program for the 2012 London Games.
The last thing these players wanted was to return to their minor league clubs, or for some upcoming September call-ups to the majors, empty-handed after arriving as medal favorites.
After Aoki's homer, U.S. cleanup hitter Matt Brown answered with his own three-run shot in the bottom half to tie the game at 4.
This marked a disappointing and surprising finish for the Japanese.
Japan (4-5) won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 and had been widely considered the favorite to win gold in the Beijing Games. In the eighth, Japanese manager Senichi Hoshino turned to top pitching prospect Yu Darvish, likely to be in the major leaguers in a few years. But the damage had already been done and Japan couldn't produce the timely hits late.
The small contingent of American fans at Wukesong Stadium chanted "USA! USA!" until the final out was made.
Masahiro Araki homered in the first inning off Anderson to put Japan ahead 1-0, then Matt LaPorta tied it with a two-out solo shot in the second. Both LaPorta and Jayson Nix returned to the U.S. lineup after sitting out in recent days with injuries.
LaPorta was hit in the head by a pitch against China on Monday and sustained a mild concussion, while Nix fouled a ball off his left eye in the 11th inning of a 5-4 loss to Cuba last Friday and needed microsurgery to repair the wound.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, sat in the stands behind home plate for part of the game with International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller. The IBAF is campaigning to get baseball back on the Olympic program for the 2016 summer games after being voted off for 2012.