August 23, 2008 / 6:14 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. beats Japan to claim baseball bronze

US. players celebrate after defeating Japan in their bronze medal baseball game at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 23, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States won an 8-4 slugfest over Japan to exit the final Olympic baseball tournament with the bronze medal on Saturday, meeting the Americans’ minimum medal requirement.

Shortstop Jason Donald had said that if his team had failed to win a medal, he had considered not returning home.

“Before we came out I said, if I don’t win a medal I think I’m going to stay here,” said Donald, who contributed a fifth-inning two-run homer to the U.S. cause.

“We did a great job of coming back, we could have easily folded and given the game away but the fortitude of this team is amazing.”

After failing to qualify for the Athens Games, the bronze restored a bit of U.S. pride before the sport is dropped from the Olympic programme following the gold medal game between Cuba and South Korea later on Saturday.

While baseball was born in the United States and holds the lofty status as the “national pastime”, Americans have enjoyed only modest success on the Olympic diamond.

Since becoming part of the Summer Games in 1992 the U.S. has won just one gold medal (2000) while Cuba has dominated the event, claiming top spot on the podium in 1992, 1996 and 2004.

After falling behind 4-1, U.S. bats suddenly came to life, Matt Brown triggering the rally with a three-run homer. Matt LaPorta also had a solo shot for the Americans.

“Our bats finally woke up,” said U.S. manager Davey Johnson. “Our big bat, Matt Brown got the job done.”

Editing by Alison Williams

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