BEIJING – 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 seven 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 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 worked out of a jam in the ninth, getting Shinnosuke Abe to ground 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.
Also Saturday, a Cuban taekwondo athlete attacked the referee after losing his bronze-medal match, as Cha Dong-min of South Korea won the gold medal in men's over-80-kilogram taekwondo.
Angel Matos was declared the loser for taking too much injury time after hurting his leg during the men's over-80 kg match. Fighters get one minute, and Matos was disqualified when his time ran out.
Matos angrily questioned the call, pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked referee Chakir Chelbat of Sweden. Matos then spat on the floor and was escorted out.
It was not immediately clear whether Matos would be punished.
China clinched all six individual medals in table tennis, after Wang Liqin beat Sweden's Jorgen Persson in the bronze medal match of men's singles to seal a sweep of the event.
Persson, a 42-year-old playing in his sixth Olympics, was the only athlete who could have stopped China from utterly dominating table tennis at the Beijing Games.
The Chinese men and women already won the team event. The women swept their singles event Friday. All that remains is the gold medal match later Saturday night, which features two Chinese athletes.
Wang struggled in the first game against Persson but stormed back in the second on his way to sealing the win with a score of 13-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-9.
Meanwhile, Nancy Jebet Langat of Kenya won the women's 1,500 meters race Saturday.
Langat followed world champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain in a breakaway with 500 meters to go and overtook her coming into the last bend, pulling away to win Saturday's final in 4 minutes, 0.23 seconds.
Ukrainians got the silver and bronze medals, with Iryna Lyshchynska second in 4:01.63 and Nataliya Tobias third in 4:01.78.
Jamal faded to finish fifth, losing three places in the last 50 meters.
Yelena Soboleva, who set a world indoor 1,500-meter record earlier this year, was provisionally suspended for a suspected anti-doping violation and dropped from the Russian team for Beijing.
Kenenisa Bekele made it a unique double Olympic long-distance double for Ethiopia on Saturday with relentless front-running that wore down everyone who dared to keep pace in the 5,000 meters.
In 86-degree F heat, cutting through the muggiest of conditions at the Bird's Nest, Bekele took over from his teammates with 2 kilometers to go an imposed such a punishing pace that he didn't need an explosive finishing kick this time, just unmatched stamina.
His win by 30 meters over Eliud Kipchoge added to his 10,000 victory for the first double since Lasse Viren in Montreal 32 years ago.
And with Tirunesh Dibaba doing the same in the women's distance races, it was the first long-distance sweep for one nation.
World champion Bernard Lagat of the United States was flat again. Seeking to repeat the 1,500-5,000 double of last year's world championships, he failed twice, finishing only ninth to end a disappointing Olympics.
Kenya extended its middle-distance domination with a golden double from Wilfred Bungei in the men's 800 and Langat in the women's 1,500.
Despite civil unrest and riots which killed hundreds and disrupted Kenya's preparations, the east African nation had a great games which already yielded four golds and 13 medals overall.
It all but assured Kenya of African domination. Ethiopia also had four gold but trailed badly in the overall standings with six.
Also Saturday, Felix Diaz won the first gold medal in Olympic boxing for the Dominican Republic with a 12-4 battering of defending champion Manus Boonjumnong of Thailand.
In a brawling four rounds, Diaz continuously beat the Thai to the punch, scoring heavily with rights to the head and a series of body blows. Diaz pulled away in the third round and Boonjumnong never rallied.
The bronze medals went to Roniel Iglesias of Cuba, and Alexis Vastine of France.