Sports digest 9/7/01

Friday, September 7, 2001

Expos release Irabu after suspension

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Expos released pitcher Hideki Irabu on Thursday, the day after he finished a one-week suspension imposed while he was on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Ottawa.

"It's a risk that we can't take," Expos general manager Jim Beattie said Thursday after making the announcement about the injury-plagued Japanese right-hander.

Team officials would only say that Irabu had "violated the terms of his contract" when the suspension without pay was announced on Aug. 29.

Japan's Kyodo News Service subsequently reported that Irabu had to be hospitalized one day before a scheduled rehab start after he went on a drinking binge while the Lynx were in Buffalo.

Irabu made just three starts for Montreal this season due to a variety of injuries. The Expos restructured his contract after acquiring him from the New York Yankees for three prospects on Dec. 23, 1999, signing him to a two-year deal with club options for 2002 and 2003.

Irabu went 0-2 with a 4.86 ERA this year for Montreal.

U.S. falls in World Cup qualifying

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- When the United States dominated in World Cup qualifying early this year, even Mexican analysts said the Americans had become the region's top power.

After three straight losses, the U.S. team now looks more like the squad that finished last in the 1998 World Cup. The Americans may have to win their final two games to reach soccer's top tournament for the fourth straight time.

Cheered by a frenzied crowd, Costa Rica dominated the U.S. team Wednesday, muddying the area before the U.S. goal on a rainy night while peppering goalkeeper Brad Friedel with shots.

The result -- which put Costa Rica into the World Cup -- was 2-0, but it could have been worse.

After starting the final round 4-0-1, the U.S. team has dropped to fourth place in the North and Central American and Caribbean region, which will send three teams to the 32-nation field in Japan and South Korea next year.

Honduras (4-2-2) beat Jamaica 1-0 to move a point ahead of the Americans. Once-struggling Mexico (4-3-1) won its third straight game, 3-0 over Trinidad and Tobago, and is ahead of the United States on goal differential.

The United States still controls its destiny. It can guarantee a cup berth by winning its final two games against Jamaica (2-4-2) on Oct. 7 at Foxboro, Mass., and at Trinidad and Tobago (0-7-1) on Nov. 11.

-- From wire reports

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