Originally created 03/08/06

Lee, Jones power USA past Mexico



PHOENIX - A pair of big swings and a parade of strong arms got the United States off to a successful start in the World Baseball Classic.

Derrek Lee and Chipper Jones homered, Jake Peavy and six U.S. relievers combined on a four-hitter as Team USA beat Mexico, 2-0 on Tuesday.

"Today I felt proud," Lee said. "I felt like the whole country was watching."

Lee hit a 1-1 pitch from starter Rodrigo Lopez over the right-field fence, and Jones homered on the first pitch he saw in the tournament - off Oscar Villarreal in the seventh.

That was plenty of offense for the pitcher-heavy U.S. roster.

Peavy allowed one hit - an infield single by Karim Garcia that easily could have been ruled an error on second baseman Chad Utley to start the game. The 24-year-old San Diego Padres right-hander struck out three, throwing just 23 pitches. Mike Timlin, Chad Cordero, Dan Wheeler, Todd Jones, Joe Nathan and Brad Lidge each threw an inning of relief for the U.S. squad, which has 11 relievers on its roster.

"Our bullpen is ridiculous," Lee said. "I kind of felt sorry for those guys having to face them."

The U.S. pitchers combined for nine strikeouts and no walks.

No Mexican hitters got beyond first. Three baserunners were erased on double plays.

The crowd of 32,727 fans at Chase Field was loud and lively with Mexican supporters waiving their red, white and green national flags and chanting "Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co!" When a U.S. batter got two strikes, there were shouts of "ponche" - strikeout.

"I thought it was awesome," Jones said. "I thought it was electric. The Mexican fans brought a lot of electricity to the game."

Lopez, a right-handed starter for the Baltimore Orioles, allowed one run and three hits in four innings, striking out one and walking one. The lone run he gave up was Lee's two-out homer in the fourth.

The lead remained 1-0 until Jones replaced Alex Rodriguez at third in the top of the seventh. With one out, he hit the first pitch from his new Atlanta teammate Villarreal some 396 feet to the seats in left-center.

"Just another huge thrill," Jones said, "another career highlight."