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Americans finally find offense to win bronze

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JANIE McCAULEY | August 23, 2008 02:16 AM EST | AP

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BEIJING — The Americans celebrated modestly in the middle of the diamond with hugs, handshakes and high-fives.

The U.S. baseball team had to settle for bronze, certainly not the medal color 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 on Saturday.

The Americans bounced back 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 eight 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 on the roster 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 pitched a scoreless ninth but had the bases loaded when Shinnosuke Abe grounded 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 of the inning 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.