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World Series 2001
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10/16/2001 04:20 AM ET
Clemens doesn't credit himself for gutty performance
By Spencer Fordin
MLB.com
Roger Clemens will be playing in the ALCS for the sixth time in his career.
Cross off the heart, the soul, the incredible competitive desire to win. Roger Clemens has a much easier explanation for his gutty performance on Monday night.

"I guess it was the socks and the pants," said Clemens, who hiked his socks up in an unusual manner. "That was for Duque, who gave me the opportunity again. I would have worn Andy and Mike's jersey if I could. I told them thanks for the opportunity."

Clemens, who was pitching with a tender right hamstring, was referring to the other three starters on this Yankee team: Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. The Rocket knew that if the other starters didn't carry their share of the load, he might have been home for the winter.

After all, Clemens left Game 1 with tightness in his hamstring, and the Yankees went on to lose that game. He needed his teammates to play their hearts out, just to get himself another chance to make a difference.

On Monday night, when nobody was sure how far Clemens would be able to go, both Pettitte and Mussina were on call. Both of them were willing and able to pitch in relief, to help out Clemens if he needed it.

In turn, that made him dig even further down.

"If I was not able to make that start because of this leg, I would have felt like I let a lot of guys down in that clubhouse," Clemens said. "I've come too far and I've worked too hard to not make the appearance and try to do what I need to do."

Since he went 20-3 in the regular season, the Yankees owed him the opportunity. Even if he only was only able to get a few outs, it was worth the gamble for Joe Torre.

In the early going, it looked like it might turn out to be a losing bet. Clemens was hitting 95 MPH consistently, and as high as 97 intermittently. Even with the velocity, though, he turned out to be extremely hittable.

The Rocket allowed a double to the leadoff hitter, Johnny Damon, and a run-scoring single to the third batter, Jason Giambi, he faced. He was no better in the second inning, repeating the same exact pattern. Terrence Long reached him for a leadoff double, then scored on a one-out single by Jeremy Giambi. Just like that, Clemens and the Yankees were down by two runs.

"In the pen, he threw the ball real well," Jorge Posada said. "He got to the game and he wanted to do a little bit more. He was obviously in pain. He fought all the way through and he didn't give up."

In the first two innings, the Rocket struck out four batters, but he also threw 40 pitches. When you're injured, jumping out to a high pitch count early in the game is never a good sign. Clemens, though, didn't look at it that way.

He said he was going as hard as he could for as long as he was in the game. He wasn't trying to set any speed or endurance records -- he was merely trying to survive, by any means necessary.

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"We were going to go pedal to the medal," Clemens said of his pregame plan. "And if it goes in the bullpen, it goes. I've got plenty of help. I think everybody had their spikes on, every pitcher."

"He pitched on adrenaline and on emotion," said Paul O'Neill, who watched the game from the bench. "You could tell out on the mound that he had to compose himself because he wanted to do so well. It was great that he could keep us in the game."

In the middle innings, Clemens did exactly that. He only allowed two baserunners in the third and fourth, one on a single and the other on an error. Neither of those runners even made it to second base.

While Clemens was shutting down the Oakland attack, the Yankees were getting themselves back in the ballgame. After four innings, the home team led by the score of 4-2.

That was when it all went downhill for Clemens. He said that he felt the injury tighten up on him in the fourth inning, and he didn't make it too far after that.

"I think, around the fourth inning, it started to get heavy," he said. "But it never had that biting feeling."

In any case, Clemens only faced three more batters. He walked Frank Menechino and got Johnny Damon to fly out to left field, but things got dicey against Miguel Tejada.

Clemens dusted Tejada with a chin-high fastball, and then plunked him on the hands with another heater. After that, Torre lifted him, bringing in Mike Stanton to face Jason Giambi.

"We fed off his emotions. He was so pumped up and throwing hard," said Stanton, who allowed a run-scoring single to Giambi. "He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win."

He certainly did, and the bullpen picked up where he left off. Stanton actually allowed the third run to score, but it was charged to Clemens. After that, the bullpen got 14 outs without permitting a single run.

"You know, the most important thing is getting it done. The pitching staff did it again," Torre said. "Roger was courageous. He was unbelievable. You knew he was just going to pitch the five innings."

And how did he know that? It wasn't Roger's track record, and it wasn't because of his warm and fuzzy personality. Tip your hat once more to El Duque -- it must've been the socks and pants.

Spencer Fordin is the site manager of Yankees.com. He can be reached at sfordin@yankees.com.