Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Puerto Rico brings on the mercy rule

BASEBALL CLASSICCuba walked eight hitters, allowed 10 hits and let the game wrap up early as the mercy rule went into effect after seven innings of play

AP , SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA AND KISSIMMEE, FLORIDAAP, PHOENIX AND PEORIA, ARIZONA

Team USA starting pitcher Roger Clemens throws against Team South Africa during the first inning of their World Baseball Classic game in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Bernie Williams and Carlos Beltran homered and Puerto Rico routed Cuba 12-2 in a World Baseball Classic game on Friday that was strictly for pride, with both teams having already secured spots in the second round.

Williams, named the best player in Pool C, hit a two-run homer to right in the second before a home crowd of 19,000 fans.

"Most definitely this home run that I hit was very important -- it was a milestone in my career... I felt that I was playing the World Series in the month of March," Williams said.

"My mother was here and my uncle was here, as well, watching me lay, and they had not watched me play for a very long time," he added.

Beltran hit a towering three-run homer right over the foul pole in right field and Alex Cintron also had a two-run shot for Puerto Rico.

Cuba walked eight hitters, allowed 10 hits and let the game wrap up early. The mercy rule went into effect and play was called after seven innings.

"We lost the battle but not the war. The war begins Sunday," said manager Higinio Velez.

It's just the second time Cuba has lost a game by the mercy rule. The other was against Taiwan in 1983.

"That means that Cuba is a great team because if not it would have lost many times under the mercy rule. But that's only happened twice," Velez said. "Our second-line pitchers did not come through and we couldn't use our best pitchers today. That was the fundamental cause of our defeat."

Cuba's only run came in the second when Ariel Borrero scored on a single to center by Osmani Urrutia.

Puerto Rico starter Dickie Gonzalez pitched four innings and gave up two hits and one unearned run for the win.

Puerto Rico's Jose Santiago was ejected from the game in the seventh inning for hitting Juan Carlos Moreno with a pitch on the back. Manager Jose Oquendo was also ejected. Both benches had received warnings.

Puerto Rico opens the second round against Venezuela and the Dominican Republic plays Cuba on Sunday in San Juan.

Tournament organizers said that approximately 75,000 fans attended the six-game series between the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Panama.

US 17, South Africa 0

Ken Griffey Jr. went 4-for-4 with two home runs and seven RBIs, and the US advanced to the second round with a 17-0 rout in a game shortened to five innings because of the tournament's mercy rule.

Roger Clemens allowed one hit in 4 1-3 innings, striking out six and walking none before leaving to a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of 11,975 at Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home to the San Francisco Giants. He threw 58 pitches.

The US opens the second round against Japan today in Anaheim, California, and Mexico plays South Korea in the second game there.

Coming off a 8-6 loss to Canada on Wednesday night, the US had to win Friday to make it to the second round of the inaugural 16-team event. The US jumped ahead 10-0 by the second inning and were never threatened by South Africa, which finished 0-3.

Derrek Lee drove in four runs with a home run and double. The homer, aided by a brisk wind blowing to right field, was Lee's second of the tournament. The US outhit South Africa 18-2.

The US squad finished in a three-way tie with Mexico and Canada at 2-1, with Mexico finishing first and the Americans second based on the tiebreaker, which is runs allowed in games involving the three tied teams.

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