FROM USA BASEBALL
BEIJING — Steven Strasburg (San Diego, Calif.) hurled seven scoreless innings and did not allow a hit until the seventh inning as the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team bounced back with a 7-0 victory over the Netherlands on Thursday afternoon at Wukesong Field 2.
The game was shortened due to rain in the Beijing area and officially ended after eight complete innings. Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) tallied a three-run homer and Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.) added a solo shot to pace the offensive attack. Team USA returns to action on Friday morning versus Cuba, with first pitch scheduled for 11:30 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. EDT) at the Wukesong Main Field.
“It was a long day out there,” said manager Davey Johnson. “My guys really played good after a late night. We came back and played real well. Mr. Strasburg did an outstanding job. We were able to get him a lead and allow him to work.”
Strasburg worked strong out of the gate as he hurled 4 1/3 perfect innings, retiring the first 13 batters he faced with eight strikeouts in the process. The Netherlands would finally reach base in the bottom of the fifth on a walk to Sidney de Jon after a 3-1 count.
That didn’t rattle Strasburg, though, as he set down the next seven batters before finally allowing a one-out single to Sharnol Adriana in the seventh inning. The right-hander finished with 11 strikeouts, the third highest total by a U.S. pitcher in Olympic play and three short of the U.S. record.
“I went out there and tried to locate the fastball down and move it inside and outside and set up my slider,” said Strasburg. “I was able to do that effectively. I just went out there and tried to compete and keep my team in the ballgame.”
In addition to Strasburg’s dominance on the mound, Team USA benefited from solid offensive contributions throughout the lineup including the pair of homers from LaPorta and Brown. Terry Tiffee (North Little Rock, Ark.), John Gall (Stanford, Calif.) and Jason Donald (Fresno, Calif.) each added two hits to lead the U.S. offense.
Riding the momentum from a clutch ninth-inning hit in the loss to Korea, Brown kept alive his hot bat with a solo home run to lead off the second inning and give Team USA a 1-0 lead. Brown crushed a 2-2 pitch from Netherlands starter Shairon Martis that reached the practice field beyond the left-field wall at the ball park.
Already with a 1-0 lead, the U.S. gave Strasburg some breathing room with four runs in the top of the fourth inning. The big hit came off the bat of outfielder LaPorta, who stroked a three-run homer to left field. Donald added an RBI double as the U.S. tagged Martis with four hits in the inning. Martis lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on six hits with six strikeouts and two walks allowed.
The lead extended to 6-0 in the seventh inning. After a one-out walk to Tiffee, the U.S. was able to take advantage of a shaky Netherlands reliever Pim Walsma, who threw three wild pitches in one at-bat versus Brown, allowing Tiffee to go from first to home.
After a one-hour, 35-minute rain delay, the U.S. added a single run in the eighth inning courtesy of an RBI by Dexter Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.).
The Netherlands looked to mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning as they loaded the bases with no outs. However, a steady rain shower turned into a downpour and the umpires had to halt play.
After a 90-minute wait for the weather to clear, the IBAF Technical Commissioners announced that the game would no longer continue, giving the U.S. a victory. Since the inning was not completed, the game officially ended after eight innings.