BEIJING Olympics fireworks are generally reserved for the opening and closing ceremonies, but plenty were on display Monday night at the Wukesong Baseball Field as the United States downed host China 9-1.
With the win and a 3-2 record in round-robin play in the eight-team tournament, the United States has a two-game cushion against the bottom half of the standings in earning a berth in the medal-round semifinals.
Meanwhile, China dropped to 1-4, suffering two ejections and two injured catchers in Monday's game.
A fifth-inning collision at home between Matt LaPorta and China catcher Wang Wei sent the latter off the field injured and brought manager Jim Lefebvre on to contest.
In the next inning, Nate Schierholtz took out substitute catcher Yang Yang, who was blocking the plate while waiting for the throw from Matt Brown's double. Joined by Chinese players, Lefebvre again left the dugout to complain and was soon ejected.
In the next inning, China pitcher Chen Kun hit LaPorta in the back of the helmet with a fastball and earned the thumb from the umpire as well, giving U.S. manager Davey Johnson a turn at coming out to voice his displeasure.
LaPorta was taken to a local hospital for a CT scan.
Johnson called fellow ex-major league Lefebvre "a hard-nosed player" and understood why he contested the collisions at home.
"He's just standing up for his players and he lost a catcher," Johnson said. "His viewpoint was different from mine. He didn't think (the catcher) was blocking the plate, but the playbacks show that he was. Emotions run high in baseball."
In addition to the two incidents at home plate, LaPorta was just one of a half-dozen batters hit by pitches.
"Pitching inside is part of the game," Johnson said. "We clipped a couple of batters on their jerseys, but my guys got hit pretty hard. They were woundless on the other team."
Johnson said he was bothered most by LaPorta's getting hit. "The last one really bothered me since I lost a player," he said. I hope fans don't get the impression that that's how you play baseball. Today was a rare game."The U.S. was led by Schierholtz, who was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs, and Terry Tiffee, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.