Americans beat China to conclude exhibitions
BEIJING (AP) In six exhibition games, U.S. Olympic baseball manager Davey Johnson discovered one thing about his club: The Americans have serious power throughout their batting order.
Nate Schierholtz homered and doubled, Terry Tiffee had a two-run single and Team USA beat China 7-3 on Monday in its final friendly tuneup before opening Olympic play Wednesday night against Korea.
"We have a team, one through nine, that can hit the ball out of the yard," said Schierholtz, who plays for the San Francisco Giants' Triple-A affiliate. "These are the top prospects in baseball. We have as good a chance as anyone. We're looking forward to getting started."
The game began with an on-field and dugout visit from President Bush, who stayed for about two innings and only after he was gone did the game open to media and fans.
"We had a big day," Johnson said. "It was big before the game when the president was here. I think that took all the guys' energy. We didn't play that well. We were kind of going through the motions. The president left in the second inning and our energy went with him. We've been together two weeks and we're chomping at the bit to play games that count."
Matt Brown doubled, singled and scored the first run of the game on an error by China in the fourth inning, when Louis Marson also added an RBI single. John Gall hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh for the Americans.
The U.S. roster is made of top minor leaguers and one college player. The Americans went 5-1 in exhibition play.
"We're ready to go. We've got a great team," Brown said. "It's time to play."
Schierholtz hit his fourth homer in six exhibition contests and the Americans had 14 total during that stretch.
"We're going to play teams with a lot of power," Johnson said.
Starter Brett Anderson struck out eight in five scoreless innings, allowing five hits and one walk. China scored two runs off U.S. reliever Blaine Neal in the seventh.
Johnson has yet to announce his pitching rotation or who will start in Wednesday's first game - and this has become commonplace in international baseball.
In fact, China's players didn't even wear numbers or names on the backs of their white jerseys.
"If you can get me Korea's starter, I'll tell you ours," Johnson joked.
Japan, Cuba and the United States are favored to medal in the eight-team tournament, baseball's last hurrah in the Olympics, at least for now. The sport comes off the Olympic program for the 2012 London Games but officials are hopeful of reinstatement for the 2016 games.
The U.S. team didn't qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics after winning gold in Sydney four years earlier.
Bush was joined by wife Laura, daughter Barbara, and brother Marvin in the right-field seats at the Wukesong baseball complex. But very few others were allowed into the venue until the president made his exit because of heightened security. The president met with both teams on the field, sat in the U.S. dugout, signed autographs and threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
"Meeting the president, how many people get to do that?" Brown said.