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Could loss to Mexico be end for Clemens?


Published: Fri, March 17, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Team USA's elimination was a stunner.
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Roger Clemens was a loser in what might have been the final start of his outstanding career, and Mexico eliminated Team USA from the World Baseball Classic.
Oliver Perez and seven relievers combined to pitch a three-hitter Thursday night as Mexico beat the Rocket and the United States 2-1, giving Japan another shot at Korea in the WBC semifinals.
The outcome was a stunner, considering Team USA fielded a lineup loaded with All-Stars even without Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon, sidelined with sore left shoulders.
Career capsule
Clemens, who has won 341 games and struck out 4,502 batters in his big league career, has said he's leaning toward retirement after the Classic. He wasn't at his best against Mexico, allowing 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.
Perez allowed only one hit in three scoreless innings, and the Mexican bullpen later 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, getting Vernon Wells to ground into a game-ending double play.
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.
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.
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.
Fifth is final
Mexico took a 2-1 lead in the fifth and chased Clemens, who left after allowing a single to Valenzuela, a sacrifice, and a single by Alfredo Amezaga to put runners at first and third. Cantu followed with an RBI grounder off Scot Shields.
The Americans blew an opportunity against Edgar Gonzalez in the top of the fifth, when Jeff Francoeur opened with a double and Michael 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.


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