MIAMI // The mercy rule prevented the United States from any further embarrassment on Saturday when their World Baseball Classic second-round match against Puerto Rico was ended with them being 11-1 behind. The match was halted in the seventh inning because of the tournament's rule, under which a game is concluded when team take a 10-run lead.
"Everybody is embarrassed," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "But 2-1 or 11-1, we're still in the same position. You can't sit around and hang your head too long." US pitcher Jake Peavy lasted only two innings, in which he gave up six runs. "I take full responsibility for the boys' loss," Peavy said. "Nothing was working. Just a tough night." The Americans now face the Netherlands in an elimination game Sunday.
They were eager to make amends for a humiliating eighth-place finish in the inaugural WBC three years ago, and they came into the tournament one of the favourites for the title. But now they're in danger of repeating their second-round exit in 2006. Puerto Rico advance to a winner's game today against Venezuela, who beat the Netherlands 3-1 in the first game on Saturday. "To beat the United States like that, to take them out in seven innings and win by 10, that's big," Ivan Rodriguez said.
Jeter, Chipper Jones and Kevin Youklis went a combined 0-for-9 batting 2-3-4 for the US, and Mark DeRosa, a late replacement for the American League's Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia, went 0-for-3 with two strike-outs while stranding five runners. With the score 7-1, Carlos Beltran homered off Matt Thornton to start the seventh. Felipe Lopez doubled home a run and Mike Aviles hit a two-out, two-run single to end the game.
Puerto Rico poured out of the dugout as fans armed with thundersticks and flags let out one final roar. From the beginning, Peavy turned the game into international batting practice. He gave up singles to three of the first four hitters he faced, and Puerto Rico scored twice in the first. Carlos Delgado singled home the first run, and Alex Rios followed with a sacrifice fly. Things got worse in the second for Peavy (0-1). He gave up a leadoff walk and then Lopez's homer. Following another walk, Ramon Vazquez doubled, Beltran drove in a run with an infield single and Delgado delivered an RBI groundout.
Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez each had solo home runs to give Venezuela victory over the Netherlands. In his first game back at Dolphin Stadium, Cabrera reached back to his Florida Marlins' days with a line drive over the left-centre field wall in the fourth that gave Venezuela a lead they never lost. Cabrera took his familiar slow walk down the first-base line, watching his ball sail over the scoreboard and sending fans of the red, yellow and blue into a flag-waving frenzy. "It was very special to come back to Miami, my old home," Cabrera said. "I'm glad I got a home run and helped our team win the game."
Carlos Silva allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, and Lopez's homer in the eighth gave Venezuela all the cushion they needed. * AP