U.S. rallies to bet Cuba, will play for gold at Pan Am Games

TORONTO -- Jim Tracy has seen a lot of baseball during his nearly four-decade career as a player, coach and manager. But the Team USA manager said the country's 6-5 comeback victory against Cuba on Saturday to advance to the gold-medal final in the Pan Am Games is right near the top.

"I don't care where you're at, what park you're in, what team you want to talk about, you couldn't watch a better baseball game than the one played right here," said the former Dodgers and Rockies manager. "That's the truth. That was absolutely tremendous."

For a while, it looked as if Cuba would play for the gold when it had a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. But U.S. reliever Brian Ellington held Cuba to just one run to keep the score to 5-1 and the Americans rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh.

The U.S. sealed the win when center fielder Travis Jankowski singled with two outs in the ninth and quickly stole second. Shortstop Andrew Parrino then drove in Jankowski to win the game and bring his teammates rushing onto the field. Parrino, who plays in the Oakland Athletics organization, said it was the best hit of his life even though he got hit in the mouth during the celebratory pileup.

"It's awesome being able to come back like that where your backs are against the wall and down 5-1 in the seventh inning," said Tyler Pastornicky, who drove in two runs. "It's put up or shut up time, and then we came out and grinded out some at-bats and got some pitches we could handle and we got some big hits.

"I think it's well-noted that we have a pretty good rivalry with Cuba. They have a lot of good players, we have a lot of good players and it's always a heated game. It's a semifinal game and everything was on the line there for us and going out there and playing well and beating them is huge."

The U.S. plays for the gold against Canada on Sunday, while Cuba faces Puerto Rico for the bronze medal.

"That's been our goal the whole time, to come out here and win the gold medal," Parrino said. "We did everything we could to win that game and we'll see what happens."