BEIJING - Breathing easier after Tuesday night's victory against Taiwan clinched a spot in the medal round, Team USA baseball manager Davey Johnson was able to rethink his lineup for Wednesday's preliminary round finale against Japan.
Johnson said he plans to hold pitcher Stephen Strasburg until the medal-round opener and will start Trevor Cahill against Japan. Strasburg gave the U.S. seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts against the Netherlands.
The victory also prevents Johnson from being tempted to play outfielder Matt LaPorta, who suffered a concussion when he was beaned during a 9-1 victory against China on Monday.
"He didn't have a good day today," Johnson said. "He was a little dizzy."
Johnson is also holding out hope that second baseman Jayson Nix, cut above his left eye when he fouled off a bunt against Cuba, might also be available in the medal round, despite being previously ruled out by U.S. team doctor William Kuprevich.
"Now the fun begins," Johnson said after Brandon Knight gave the U.S. 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball and relievers Mike Koplove and Kevin Jepsen finished off the 4-2 victory against Taiwan. "I didn't even want to think about not getting into the medal round, and I would have hated to leave our fate in someone else's hands."
With one game still to play in its seven-game preliminary round, the U.S. is tied with Japan at 4-2. South Korea is 6-0 after defeating Cuba 7-4 in a battle of unbeatens Tuesday, but no other team is better than 2-4.
John Gall homered and Dexter Fowler had three hits, drove in a run and scored another to lead Tuesday's 10-hit U.S. attack.
Team USA, which went into Tuesday's game leading the Olympic tournament in team batting (.269) and runs scored (32) after five games, was blanked for the first four innings by Taiwan's Wen-Hsuing Hsu.
After Taiwan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Fowler led off the bottom of the inning with a triple to right-center. Brian Barden doubled to roughly the same spot to tie it.
Right fielder Nate Schierholtz threw out a runner at the plate in the sixth, and Gall led off the bottom of the inning with the United States' seventh homer of the tournament, a line drive to left-center that just cleared the fence.