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USA wins a wild game over China

BEIJING, — Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (Farmington, Mo.) threw six scoreless innings and Nate Schierholtz (Danville, Calif.) went 2-for-3 with three RBIs as the U.S. Olympic baseball team defeated China, 9-1, on Monday evening at the Wukesong Main Field.

Arrieta and three relievers combined to limit China to just four hits on the evening and helped the U.S. to improve its record to 3-2 in round-robin play. The loss drops China to 1-4. Team USA continues competition on Tuesday evening with first pitch set for 7 p.m. local time (7 a.m. EDT) at the Wukesong Main Field.

In his first start, Arrieta allowed just two hits and struck out seven batters to earn a victory for Team USA. Relievers Mike Koplove (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Casey Weathers (Elk Grove, Calif.) each hurled one scoreless inning of relief. Blaine Neal (Marlton, N.J.) would then close out the ninth inning for the U.S. The four U.S. pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts as well. That strikeout total is third highest in U.S. history in Olympic play.

“I think the reason I was successful was because I had pretty good command of my fastball,” said Arrieta. “In the later innings, I was throwing breaking balls for strikes, and I think I could have done a little better job of throwing more off-speed pitches earlier on in the count. The big thing that helped me today was the command of my fastball to overpower hitters with it and using the off-speed when I had to.”

Schierholtz and Terry Tiffee (North Little Rock, Ark.) led the way for Team USA at the plate with two hits apiece. The U.S. also reached base on seven walks as well as five hit-by-pitches.

The U.S. broke ahead, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning. Brian Barden (Templeton, Calif.) led off with a single to right-center and advanced all the way to third base on a fielding error by right fielder Fei Feng. Barden would then score on Nate Schierholtz’s (Danville, Calif.) RBI single.

The Red, White & Blue extended the lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning. With two outs and Tiffee on second base, John Gall (Stanford, Calif.) blooped a double down the right field line for Team USA’s second run. After a walk was issued to Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.), the U.S. struck again when Taylor Teagarden (Dallas, Texas) roped another double, also down the right field line scoring both runners and giving the U.S. a four-run cushion. Team USA added a run in the sixth inning as Tiffee drove in his second run of the game on a sacrifice fly.

The U.S. scored its final four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning although only one batter reached on a base hit. The U.S. loaded the bases after a hit by pitch and two walks with Schierholtz then driving in a pair of runs with a double. Barden would then score on a wild pitch with Schierholtz scoring the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.).

China broke the Americans’ attempt at a shutout in the ninth inning when Yang Yang hit a solo homer for the Chinese.

“Every game we play is tough,” said manager Davey Johnson. “All the games [here] seem to look like they’re going to be one-run games. With my ballclub, it seems like we are trying to get something going offensively. We still have two or three guys here that are struggling. Every game is a big game. Tomorrow is going to be a huge game [with Chinese Taipei]. We came here to get in the medal round, so tomorrow’s game is definitely huge.”

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