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TORONTO -- Roger Clemens certainly proved the Boston Red Sox were wrong.

On the final day of the regular season, Clemens struck out eight against his former team to pass Randy Johnson and win his fourth AL strikeout title, and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat Boston, 3-2, Sunday.

"I just wish all the wins, all the strikeouts, would have been for a better cause," Clemens said. "But what a special way to finish the season."

Last Dec. 13, the three-time Cy Young Award winner left the Red Sox to sign a $24.75 million, three-year contract with Toronto.

"We didn't see Roger as the top pitcher in baseball," Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said that afternoon. "He certainly hasn't pitched that way in the last couple of years."

So what did Clemens do?

He led the AL in victories (21), ERA (2.05) and strikeouts (a career-high 292), becoming the first to lead the AL in all three categories since Detroit's Hal Newhouser in 1945.

"He left Boston with so much controversy and he shoved it up people's butts all year," said Mo Vaughn, who may also be leaving Boston. "Nobody could be happier for him than I am."

At SkyDome, Clemens came out trailing 2-1, leaving to a standing ovation after he fanned Mike Benjamin leading off the ninth. Johnson, who pitched in relief Saturday to get his 20th win, finished with 291 strikeouts.

"As much as there were a lot of positives this year, on the whole we definitely underachieved," Clemens said. "Next year we'll just have to pull our hats down a little lower and push forward."

Meanwhile, almost as quickly as they finished their dismal season, the Red Sox also ended their relationship with outfielder Wilfredo Cordero.

Cordero, facing trial for allegedly assaulting his wife, was placed on unconditional release waivers by the Red Sox on Sunday.

"I'm glad that it's over," Cordero said. "Now that I know, I can go home and know I'm not coming back here, so that's good. Now I can go and concentrate on coming back with another team."

Belle has subpar season

CHICAGO -- Albert Belle's season -- by his own standards -- was sub-par. The one experienced by his new team, the Chicago White Sox, was even more disappointing.

The White Sox finished one game under .500 after beating the Kansas City Royals, 4-3. Frank Thomas became the first White Sox player to win a batting title since Luke Appling in 1943, finishing at .347.

Albert Belle, completing the first season of his $55 million, five-year contract, hit his 30th home run. He hit .274 with 116 RBIs, down from last year when he hit .311 with 48 homers and 148 RBIs.

Belle's 30 home runs were his fewest since 1991 when he hit 28. And he hadn't batted under .300 since hitting .290 in 1993.

"I had a terrible start; everything went wrong. (Then) I started to turn things around,'" Belle said in a beat writer-only interview session Sunday.

"I would have felt better if we played better than .500."

Belle said he had no regrets leaving the Indians, who are going to the playoffs again while the White Sox are not. The White Sox finished in second place in the AL Central, six games behind the Indians.

During the season, Belle hit a club-record four grand slams, had a 27-game hitting streak that ended in early June and also went 25-for-105 (.238) in July.

Around the horn

Ken Griffey Jr. did not hit a homer, finishing with a league-high 56 as the Mariners lost, 9-7, to the Athletics. Seattle finished with a major league-record 264 homers. . . . Mark Davis plunked Brady Anderson with the bases loaded in the eighth as the Orioles beat the Brewers, 7-6. . . . Charles Nagy (15-11), scheduled to start Game Three of the playoffs, allowed five runs and nine hits in seven innings as the Indians lost to the Twins, 5-1. Cleveland, the AL Central champion, finished 86-75, its lowest victory total in a full season since 1993. . . . John Burkett (9-12) shut out the Angels for eight innings before being ejected by plate umpire John Hirschbeck in the Rangers' 4-0 victory. Burkett was ejected after he opened the ninth by throwing two pitches at Jim Edmonds, apparent retaliation for Mike Bovee's brushback pitch against Damon Buford in the top of the inning.

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