Print and Go Back World Classic 2006 [Print without images]

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Updated: March 17, 1:48 PM ET
U.S. eliminated from WBC with 2-1 loss to Mexico news services


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Roger Clemens was looking for a much better finish to his brilliant career.

Clemens pitched well Thursday night, but a lineup loaded with All-Stars couldn't get the job done for the United States.

Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens exited after 4 1/3 innings on Thursday, and said the action might have been his last: "For me, right now, it's goodbye."
Oliver Perez and seven relievers combined to pitch a three-hitter to lead Mexico past the Rocket and Team USA 2-1 on Thursday night, eliminating the Americans from the inaugural World Baseball Classic and putting Japan in the semifinals.

When it was over, Clemens implied that he had thrown his final pitch.

"For me, right now, it's goodbye," he said in a brief statement issued through Team USA. "I felt great tonight and my body responded well. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this event. It made all the work I did in the last six weeks worthwhile."

Clemens, who has won 341 games and struck out 4,502 batters in 22 big-league seasons, wasn't at his best. The 43-year-old right-hander allowed six hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings with no walks and four strikeouts. He threw 73 pitches -- seven below the maximum for the second round.

Clemens was randomly chosen for a drug test after the game, ESPN has learned.

The outcome was a stunner, especially considering the offensive firepower on the Americans' roster even without Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon, sidelined with sore left shoulders.

Team USA scored only eight runs in three second-round games.

"It's a tough bite to chew," catcher Michael Barrett said. "The expectations on us to win and getting upset is a credit to their style of play and their pitching. We put everything we had into this in such a short time, and didn't get it done."

Korea had a 3-0 second-round record in Group One, with Team USA, Japan and Mexico all going 1-2. Japan earned the second semifinal berth from the group by allowing the fewest runs in games between the tied teams.

Japan, which has already lost twice to Korea in the Classic, faces its archrival in Saturday's second semifinal game in San Diego, with the Dominican Republic meeting Cuba in the daytime opener. The winners play Monday for the championship.

"You're never prepared for defeat. We always prepare to win," Team USA manager Buck Martinez said. "It's a disappointing loss, for sure. We never really exploded with the bats.

"The quality of the pitching we saw in this tournament was certainly much better than I expected on a consistent basis."

Martinez said Clemens didn't object to being removed from the game.

"Rocket looked at me and looked fatigued," Martinez said. "He says, 'What do you got out there?' That was a sign that he felt like I did. We probably had a better shot with a fresh arm out there."

Scot Shields entered with runners at first and third and one out, and Jorge Cantu's grounder drove in what proved to be the winning run.

"My perfect scenario would have been that I come in for Roger and clean up his mess," Shields said. "I got the chance and I didn't do it, and that hurts. That run that scored was the winning run and it eliminated us. It's pretty hard to take."

Perez allowed only one hit in three scoreless innings, and the Mexican bullpen retired 12 straight batters until Chipper Jones drew a one-out walk off Jorge De La Rosa in the ninth. Luis Ayala then walked Alex Rodriguez, but David Cortes needed only one pitch to get Vernon Wells to ground into a game-ending double play.

"We came here to win, and that is how we performed this evening," Mexico manager Paquin Estrada said through a translator.

Regarding Clemens, Estrada said: "He's a person that I respect, and I've kept the lineup as a souvenir to this occasion."

Mexico took a 1-0 lead off Clemens in the third on a leadoff double by Mario Valenzuela and a two-out single by Jorge Cantu.

But it wasn't that simple.

A television replay showed Valenzuela's fly ball hit the right field foul pole at least 10 feet off the ground and bounced back onto the field. However, first base umpire Bob Davidson didn't see it that way, and Valenzuela wound up at second.

It was Davidson, umpiring behind the plate, who ruled that Japan's Tsuyoshi Nishioka left third base early in the eighth inning Sunday to negate a sacrifice fly that would have snapped a 3-3 tie in a game Team USA won.

The Americans tied it in the fourth off Francisco Campos when Jones doubled, took third on a fly ball and scored on Wells' sacrifice fly, barely beating right fielder Valenzuela's throw to the plate.

Valenzuela opened the fifth with a single, took second on a sacrifice and third on a single by Alfredo Amezaga before Shields relieved and Cantu drove in the winning run.

"This was for Mexico, so everyone can know in our country -- everyone can know what we're doing here so we can leave here with our heads held high," Cantu said, adding it was an honor to face Clemens.

The Americans blew an opportunity against Edgar Gonzalez in the top of the fifth, when Jeff Francoeur opened with a double and Barrett was hit by a pitch. Francoeur strayed off second when Michael Young squared to bunt, and was caught in a rundown. Gonzalez then retired Young and Derek Jeter on ground balls to end the inning.

Thanks to exceptional work by relievers Ricardo Rincon and Oscar Villareal, Team USA wouldn't have another baserunner until the ninth.

The game was played before an announced crowd of 38,284 at Angel Stadium. Among those attending was commissioner Bud Selig, a proponent of the Classic.

"The intensity has been just remarkable," Selig said. "In the end, the beneficiary of all this will be baseball all over the world. I mean, who knows, long after I'm gone, this event will be big. But more importantly than this event will be big is what it's going to do for baseball, including American baseball."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.