The final spot in the WBC Final Four will be decided today. If the USA wins, it moves on to play Korea Saturday night in San Diego. If Mexico wins, most likely it will be Japan that will move on. The USA can advance also if they lose a 1-0 game, in 9 innings or be drawn into a 2-1 or 3-2 game that goes into extra innnings.
Roger Clemens, in what could be his last professional baseball start (until he decides to unretire again), goes for the USA. Oliver Perez will start for Mexico.
Mexico comes into the game with a .690 team OPS in five games and has scored just two runs in its last two games, both coming on solo home runs. The United States is second in the WBC in OPS and the highest among the remaining teams at .918 (Canada was .928 in three games). But most of the American hitting was done in one 17-0 win over South Africa. Since then, the American team scored just four runs in a win over Japan and only three in a loss to Korea, with two coming in the ninth inning.
Mexico's pitching has been better than the USA. Mexico sports an ERA of 3.14 to 4.05 for the USA. Both teams have allowed four home runs.
The USA will be without the services of Derrek Lee at first base today as he is nursing a sore shoulder. Lee had hit three home runs in five games and had homered against Mexico in the team's earlier meeting, a 2-0 win for the USA. Mark Texeira will likely start at first and he's 0 for 12 in the WBC. Johnny Damon will not play in the field (or at all) and USA manager Buck Martinez may start Jeff Francouer, who has only 3 ABs in the tournament.
Mexico's offense, such as it is, is led by Jorge Cantu who has hit two home runs and has an OPS of 1.014. The Mexican team is batting just .235 for the WBC.
The fact that the USA is still alive will make this game far more interesting of course. Mexico probably should not beat the USA. But then again, Canada and Korea shouldn't have either. If Clemens gets the team off to a good start and the USA hitters can actually get a hit with runners on base, the USA should win. But if the 2004 version of Oliver Perez shows up, Mexico could keep this one close and make it uncomfortable for fans of the USA. Expect a crowd that will still likely be heavily pro-Mexico, although not to the same extent as a USA-Mexico soccer match in Southern California. Mexico may have only the longest of shots to make it to the semifinals (they need to win 3-0 or 4-0 in 13 innings), but they would certainly enjoy knocking out their neighbor to the north, just as they did in Olympic qualifying in 2003.
FINAL SCORE Mexico 2, United States 1
WP -- Edgar Gonzalez
LP -- Roger Clemens
Save -- David Cortes
HRs -- None (well at least not ones that counted, but you'll have to talk to Bob Davidson about that.)
Korea wins the Anaheim Regional with a 3-0 record. Japan, USA, and Mexico all finish 1-2. By the runs allowed tiebreaker, Japan surrendered 5 runs in 17 2/3 innings (.282). The USA gave up 5 in 17 innings (.294) and Mexico surrendered 7 runs in 18 innings (.388).
Korea will play Japan on Saturday night at 7 pm PT in San Diego in the semifinal.