Mercy! Puerto Rico Embarrasses U.S. In 7 Innings

MIAMI  — The mercy rule is designed to spare Little Leaguers from humiliation, not a bunch of big league All-Stars.

But it was Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and their United States teammates who found themselves shuffling off the field in the seventh inning Saturday night. Puerto Rico scored four times in the seventh to complete an 11-1 victory that left Team USA on the ropes in round two of the World Baseball Classic.

"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."

Carlos Beltran and Felipe Lopez homered, and Puerto Rico rocked Jake Peavy for six runs in the first two innings to send the U.S. team into the loser's bracket. Roy Oswalt will start for the Americans when they face the Netherlands in an elimination game Sunday night.

To cap a Classic blowout, Mike Aviles hit a two-out, two-run single in the seventh, triggering the tournament's 10-run rule and sending Puerto Rico players pouring out of the dugout in jubilation. Several players on both teams said they didn't realize the game was over, including Puerto Rico's hot-hitting Ivan Rodriguez.

"I was putting on my catching equipment," he said. "When I walked out, I saw everyone on the field. I thought maybe somebody got hurt."

Javier Vazquez (2-0) allowed one run in five innings for Puerto Rico, which remained unbeaten through four games. Rodriguez, playing in Miami for the first time since he helped the Marlins win the 2003 World Series, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI to hike his WBC batting average to .600 (9-for-15).

The Americans were eager to make amends for a humiliating eighth-place finish in the inaugural WBC three years ago, and they came into the tournament considered a strong contender for the title. But they're 2-2 this time around and in danger of repeating their second-round exit in 2006.

Puerto Rico advances to a winner's bracket game Monday night against Venezuela, which beat the Dutch 3-1 in the first game Saturday. Monday's winner advances to the semifinals next weekend in Los Angeles.

Manager Davey Johnson unexpectedly rejoined Team USA around game time and watched with a grimace as the Americans quickly fell behind. He had been scheduled to miss the game for the wedding of his stepson in St. Petersburg.

"The wedding got over a little early, and I had a plane standing by and I wanted to be here," Johnson said. "Maybe I should have stayed longer."

The crowd of 30,595 was evenly divided in its support, but Puerto Rico fans had a lot more to cheer about. Jeter, Chipper Jones and Kevin Youkilis went a combined 0-for-9 batting 2-3-4 for Team USA, and Mark DeRosa went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts while stranding five runners.

DeRosa was a late fill-in for reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, placed on the disabled list for the second round Saturday because of a strained muscle on his left side.

With the score 7-1, Beltran homered off Matt Thornton to start the seventh. Lopez doubled home a run and Aviles singled to end the game. Fans armed with thundersticks and flags let out one final roar, while right fielder Adam Dunn fielded the ball, threw it to the infield and walked back to his position, unaware the game was over.

"To beat the United States like that, to take them out in seven innings and win by 10, that's big," Rodriguez said.

From the outset, Peavy made the game look like 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.

"I take full responsibility for the boys' loss," Peavy said. "Nothing was working. Just a tough night."

While Peavy gave up six hits and two walks, Vazquez allowed only one baserunner until Wright led off the fifth with a single. Dunn also singled, and after a forceout, Brian McCann doubled home a run to make it 6-1.

Vazquez escaped further damage by retiring DeRosa and Shane Victorino. The Americans totaled six hits.

Puerto Rico had 13 hits and is batting .341 in the tournament.

"Embarrassment is the only word that comes to mind," Dunn said. "It is unacceptable, uncalled for. You go out and play like that, you get what you get."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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