10/11/2003 10:15 PM ET
High-octane Rocket fuels win
Clemens pitches six inspired innings in Fenway finale
BOSTON -- There is a controlled fury that Roger Clemens brings to the mound.
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
It's more intensity than it is anger, and for six innings Saturday evening the Rocket harnessed that energy, delivering it in a powerful fashion that, for many years, was a common occurrence at Fenway Park.
This outing, however, would prove to be the last time Clemens would blow through the old ballpark with the ferocity of a freight train. He's 41 years old, but his performance in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series looked an awful lot like that of a younger man,
a younger Clemens, who clearly seemed to be reaching back in time with every pitch he threw.
Like those games from years ago, Clemens once again came out on top. This time, however, it was the Yankees who walked out of Fenway as winners, topping Boston, 4-3, in a pivotal contest overflowing with emotion.
While Clemens' feelings have gotten the best of him at times at Fenway during the post-Boston years of his career, his ability to keep himself in check Saturday evening proved to be a crucial part of New York's victory. The Rocket stayed focused after the Red Sox scored two first-inning runs, settling down to retire 13 of the next 14 batters.
Clemens also never lost his cool after Pedro Martinez hit Karim Garcia with a fourth-inning pitch. When Manny Ramirez approached Clemens in the bottom half of the inning following a pitch that was high but not all that tight, holding a bat in a threatening manner, the Rocket never flinched. The 13-minute, bench-clearing episode that ensued as a result of Ramirez's actions never caused Clemens to come unglued either.
"I was just able to make pitches and get them out," Clemens said. "They're a good hitting club and for me to be able to hold them down in this ballpark, I feel real fortunate. I was able to make some key pitches and that was really it."
That's the ultra-nutshell version. He was able to remain true to himself despite being upset with a decision by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. After Martinez clipped Garcia with his pitch, a minor get-together ensued as
Garcia attempted to break up a double play. Marquez issued a formal warning to both benches.
Clemens, who was in the clubhouse changing into a dry jersey, was not amused.
"My emotions were great because I was asking [crew chief] Timmy [McClelland about the warning] and I wanted to get it off my chest," Clemens said. "The home plate umpire said he
had to warn both benches and basically what I told him was that I couldn't believe that. Obviously it wouldn't deter me from pitching inside like I had been trying to do all night.
"He said no problem. I said that when this thing needs to be cleaned up, you would know it. And he said that I would understand [what] the consequences [would be]. I said the
consequences of what you have to do are far greater than what I have to go through dressing and showering. They totally understood what I had to say and they totally respected what I had to say. They are professionals. They know."
But Ramirez took exception to the high fastball.
Mayhem ensued, both benches emptied and New York coach Don Zimmer was eventually knocked to the ground by Martinez after charging toward the Red Sox ace.
"We didn't start it," Clemens said. "Whatever baseball they want to play, we're going to play. But we didn't start that. Sometimes when you get knocked around the ballpark, you get your ticket punched. I've had it happen many times, these guys [the Red Sox] have done it to me.
"We didn't start it. Whatever baseball they want to play, we're going to play. But we didn't
start that. Sometimes when you get knocked around the ballpark, you get your ticket
punched. I've had it happen many times."
-- Clemens on the fourth-inning fireworks
"If you [Martinez] don't have electric stuff and you're not on and guys are hitting balls they shouldn't be hitting, you might stand somebody up. But just because you're getting hit, you don't hit somebody's neck. That's part of baseball. The hitters don't like it. Karim definitely didn't like it. I wasn't a part of that. I went in there and I was trying to strike Manny out. And the bottom line is he started mouthing at me and the ball wasn't near him. If I wanted it near him, he'd know it."
When order was restored, Clemens got Ramirez to swing feebly at a third strike on the outside corner. He took care of business in the fifth before running into trouble in the sixth. Johnny Damon led off with a single and Todd Walker walked. But Clemens reared back and got Nomar Garciaparra to strike out looking before inducing an inning-ending double play from Ramirez.
"The last half-dozen starts, I think he's been able to keep his emotions in check and really have that stuff work for him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "But we took him out after six and it was really a courageous sixth inning. He had to go through that lineup with a couple of men on base. It was incredible.
"It wasn't the pitch count that got him. I think the emotion of the whole thing really, really drained him. That's the reason we made the switch."
The final line included seven strikeouts and one walk. Clemens allowed five hits, three of which came in the first inning. He was all prepared to come out for the seventh had the Bombers added another run but Torre had seen enough.
"Roger made some adjustments and he kept getting better and better as the game went on," Boston manager Grady Little said. "That's the kind of pitcher Roger Clemens is. He's a Hall of Fame pitcher and he's done that more than once in his career."
Many of those times have been at Fenway. And for one final night, Clemens at times certainly seemed like he was 25 again, even if his socks weren't red.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its