Americans rally from four-run deficit
BEIJING (AP) U.S. baseball coaches Rick Eckstein and Marcel Lachemann watched and thought their players were just going through the motions against Canada, their concentration sub-par and their at-bats too easy on the opposing pitcher.
So, down by four runs Saturday, they loudly let it be known that things had better pick up in a hurry.
And something sure clicked.
Terry Tiffee doubled in the go-ahead score in the seventh inning as the United States rallied from that four-run deficit for a 5-4 victory, keeping its Olympic medal hopes alive.
"We came out a little dead," Tiffee said. "We've got to come out from the beginning. We can't come out dead again. That can't happen."
The U.S. also got strong relief pitching as Brian Duensing retired 10 of the final 11 batters for the win as the Americans turned a one-run result in their favor for a change. They lost their opener 8-7 to South Korea and then had a demoralizing 5-4, 11-inning defeat to defending champion Cuba on Friday.
"We've played a lot of tight ballgames," said Eckstein, the third base coach. "There's no question we've been tested in so many ways so far this tournament. We've responded. I like what I'm seeing: their heart and character."
In Saturday's other early game, Cuba (4-0) stayed unbeaten with a 1-0 win over Taiwan (1-3).
Later, the Netherlands beat China, 6-4, giving the Dutch their first win of the tournament against three losses. Three players hit home runs for the Netherlands - Sidney de Jong, Sharnol Adriana and Bryan Engelhardt. China fell to 1-2.
South Korea (3-0) scored three runs in the ninth inning to beat Japan, 5-3, in the other late game. Japan is 2-2 in the tournament.
The Americans' medal chances seemed to be in serious jeopardy when trailing 4-0 in the fourth inning Saturday. The U.S. team (2-2) must finish among the top four in the eight-team, robin-robin tournament to have a chance of reaching the medal stand.
"I'm very happy Rick and Lach yelled out. If I yell out, nobody can hear me," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "It did pick us up a little bit. Today was a must win, otherwise we would have pretty much been eliminated."
Brian Barden, playing in place of injured second baseman Jayson Nix, hit an opposite-field homer and then a tying RBI double in the seventh moments before Tiffee's big hit for the U.S. On Friday, Nix fouled a ball off his left eye and needed microsurgery that will keep him out the remainder of the Olympics.
USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler said Nix was "much better." Nix was resting in the athletes' village and his teammates planned to pay him a visit as soon as possible.
Barden hit a solo homer to start the fourth for the Americans. It was just the second hit off Canadian starter James Avery.
The U.S. put the tying run aboard when Lou Marson drew a leadoff walk in the seventh against loser Chris Reitsma, a seven-year big leaguer who pitched last year for the Seattle Mariners. Marson went to second on Jason Donald's sacrifice and scored on Barden's double. Tiffee followed with the go-ahead double.
Emmanuel Garcia had an RBI triple and Emerson Frostad doubled in a run for Canada (1-3). Like the U.S., the Canadians had tough one-run losses to Cuba and South Korea.
"We had the momentum and we started to lose that momentum," Garcia said. "We came up short and that's pretty sad."
The Americans fell behind 3-0 in the third on Garcia's one-out triple and an RBI groundout by Michael Saunders. Canada made it 4-0 when Adam Stern singled in a run in the fourth.
U.S. lefty starter Brett Anderson was chased in the sixth after allowing a two-out double to Matt Rogelstad and Chris Robinson's infield single that bounced just up the third-base line and stayed fair. Duensing relieved and got Stern on a called third strike.
Johnson started a Double-A farmhand from the Oakland Athletics for the second straight day, following Friday starter Trevor Cahill with the left-handed Anderson against Canada's heavy lefty lineup. After a 1-2-3 first, Anderson didn't get another clean inning until retiring the side in order again in the fifth.
Canada second baseman Stubby Clapp made a great stop on Marson's hard liner in the third, diving to his right for the catch. Clapp also fouled a ball just wide of the right-field foul pole with the tying run on first in the ninth before flying out to left to end it.
"We took a rest and they kept pushing," Clapp said.
After a day off Sunday, the U.S. has games against China and Taiwan on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. It plays medal favorite and 2006 World Baseball Classic champion Japan on Wednesday night.
"We need every game," Barden said. "You don't know how this tournament's going to turn out. We definitely needed this game."
The U.S. will get some down time during a scheduled rest day, when China and South Korea have to make up their scoreless game that was suspended Thursday because of a downpour.
Johnson, for one, was headed to the Great Wall to get his mind off things.