SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. There was no classic embarrassment for the United States on Friday. Just the blowout everyone expected.
A pair of the squad's senior citizens - Ken Griffey Jr. and Roger Clemens - led the way in a 17-0 rout of South Africa that advanced the Americans to the second round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
Griffey went 4-for-4 with two home runs and seven RBIs in a game shortened to five innings because of the tournament's mercy rule.
Clemens allowed one hit in 41â3 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, seven shy of the limit allowed in the first round.
"I was pitching 100 percent, at this time of year regardless," the 43-year-old right-hander said. "You know, it was my job after the guys came out and put the numbers on the board - throw strikes, not walk anybody, get them back in and swinging the bat a little bit."
The United States opens the second round against Japan on Sunday in Anaheim, Calif., and Mexico plays South Korea in the second game there.
Coming off a stunning 8-6 loss to Canada on Wednesday night, the United States had to win Friday to make it to the second round of the inaugural 16-team event. That became a non-issue in a hurry against the overmatched South Africans, who finished 0-3.
"We were like, 'OK, if we can get out to an early lead, put some pressure on and let Roger relax and have some fun,'" Griffey said.
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 United States outhit South Africa, 18-2.
"If we can swing the bat and be particular about what pitches to swing at, and be patient and stuff like that, I think we can put some pressure on some people," Griffey said. "You look at the numbers these guys put over through the course of the year, there's no easy out in there. That makes it tough on everybody."
The U.S. 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.
The Americans essentially took batting practice against right-hander Carl Michaels, who pitched for South Africa in the 2000 Olympics and 2005 World Cup.
Derek Jeter and Griffey singled in the first, then scored when Alex Rodriguez's hit got past right fielder Ian Butcher for a triple. Lee's three-run homer made it 4-0.
In the six-run second, Griffey hit a three-run homer to right and Lee doubled in two more.
Barry Armitage, a right-hander who pitched for Double-A Wichita last season, didn't fare any better when he relieved Michaels, allowing six runs in the third, including another three-run home run to Griffey.