TORONTO -- Was this the end to the gold-medal baseball game or a scene from "The Bad News Bears Go to the Pan Am Games"?
With the Pan Am gold medal nearly in its grasp, the United States threw it away Sunday night. Literally. Team USA allowed the tying and winning runs to score on two wild throws on the same play in the bottom of the 10th inning of Canada's 7-6 victory.
"That's probably not the way you see it unfolding," U.S. third baseman Tyler Pastornicky said, adding that he's never seen a game end like that in his life. "Not even close. It's a whole different level for me there. ... Baseball is a very humbling game. It makes you feel the highest you'll ever feel in your life and then brings you to your knees before you know it. And that's what happened to us."
Indeed. After experiencing what U.S. manager Jim Tracy said was just about the greatest victory of his career in Saturday's comeback win against Cuba, he called Sunday one of his most painful losses.
"That's not really the way you like to lose a baseball game," Tracy said. "When you get to that point in time in the game, if you're going to get beat, you'd like to see yourself beat at home plate, not by throwing the ball away."
You probably don't like playing extra-inning games under international rules, either. Under those rules, extra innings begin by placing runners at first and second with nobody out and the team at bat choosing whatever spot in the lineup it wants to lead off. "We've been through the tiebreaker before," veteran Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "It's something I don't like, but it is what it is."
It wasn't the rule that cost the United States, though, it was its own poor play at the end.
With help from the rule, the U.S. scored those two runners in the top of the 10th when Pastornicky doubled with the bases loaded and one out to give his team a 6-4 lead.
It looked like the U.S. might be able to maintain that lead when Canada leadoff batter Sean Jamieson struck out by fouling off a two-strike bunt attempt. Peter Orr, however, followed with a one-run single that put Canada within a run at 6-5 with runners on first and second.
Then, U.S. reliever David Huff attempted to pick Orr off at first and tossed the ball wildly over first baseman Casey Kotchman. That allowed Skyler Stromsmoe to score from second. Right fielder Brian Bogusevic made things worse by picking up the ball and throwing it wildly to third, allowing Orr to reach the base and then race home. The throw home was close, but catcher Thomas Murphy didn't hold onto the ball, allowing Orr to slide in safely.
"You see the ball flying around and you just keep running the bases," Whitt said. "We took advantage of their mistakes."