Clemens' swagger spreads to Yanks
Previously muted offense enjoys active day on basepaths
NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens had plenty of offensive fire to ignite his relaunch on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, highlighted by a trio of two-hit games by Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano.
And with the hot bats came some good old-fashioned excitement in the Bronx.
The Yankees pounded out 10 hits and scored eight runs against the Pirates en route to their fifth straight win, 9-3, not to mention a display of plate discipline shown by walking seven times and striking out just three times.
Perhaps it's just the Clemens effect.
"I think the energy he brings, and the excitement, and the intensity that he brings, it's good to see," catcher Jorge Posada said. "It was a lot of fun to have him back."
Alex Rodriguez's two RBIs led the team and gave him a Major League-leading 58 on the season.
Both A-Rod and Derek Jeter said that the team's recent fire was lit in Toronto. Ever since then, the wins have steadily come as the Yankees have won their past three series.
Now that Clemens is here, the winning swagger swirling throughout the clubhouse has only grown stronger.
"It's a great boost, that's for sure," Rodriguez said. "It's just great to have him out. He brings a great presence, and he threw the ball pretty well for his first time out."
Rodriguez added: "I think he brings a personality and character that is second to none, and I think this team definitely feeds off of that, and this team needs that."
Damon said that he and the rest of the Yankees playing alongside Clemens for the first time are finding out there's more to the 44-year-old than his long list of accomplishments on the mound.
"We're finding out he's a great teammate, too," Damon said. "Just being around, talking to us."
The energy, the smiles, the wins -- it all seems to be coming together in the early goings of June.
"We feel like we can compete against any team," Damon said. "We felt that way at the beginning of the year, but, unfortunately, things weren't clicking."
While Clemens spoke to several media outlets and answered numerous questions, he summarized his first start back with the Yankees concisely:
"It's great to be back," Clemens said. "There's great energy here, as expected, and the guys played well. Just a good day all the way through."
After the game, Jeter stirred some laughter among reporters when he said that he introduced the Yankees infielders to Clemens. After all, Jeter is the only Yankees infielder still playing in pinstripes since Clemens' three-year hiatus.
The feeling out at shortstop was deja vu for Jeter, who said it felt like Clemens had never left.
"His demeanor is always the same," Jeter said. "He pitches well. He's been doing it in Houston; he did it when he was here.
"When he pitches, he's pretty animated. He's pretty into the game -- brings some excitement."
All of the excitement surrounding Clemens seemed to pump adrenaline into the Yankees, especially on the basepaths.
The Yankees tested the strong arm of Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino, swiping five bags without being thrown out. Damon (11), Abreu (9), Rodriguez (7), Jeter (6) and Melky Cabrera (4) each stole one base.
Abreu said that the team's aggressiveness on the basepaths was just another sign that the Yankees are playing like, well, the Yankees.
"We hit very good, we ran the bases good," Abreu said. "We put everything together."
Posada, though not one to steal many bases, noticed the team's electricity, saying that the baserunning was "unbelievable."
Along with the effective running game, manager Joe Torre said the Yankees' strong starting pitching of late makes the team feel better about itself.
"If you go out there and score one run at a time, you have the chance to do something, as opposed to falling behind and having to catch up all the time," Torre said. "The hitters have a better approach when we're trying to do little things, and right now, we're there. We're getting very aggressive on the basepaths; we're trying to do some things."
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.