An hour or so before he blew away the Mariners with a one-hit,
15-strikeout masterpiece in Game 4 of the American League
Championship Series, Roger Clemens was having trouble staying
awake. On the trainer's table in the visitors' locker room at
Safeco Field last Saturday afternoon, Clemens caught himself
yawning and feeling sluggish. "I said to myself, This is not
good," Clemens recalled the next day, basking in the glow of the
first one-hitter in League Championship Series history and one of
the most dominating performances of his 16-year career. So not
good, in fact, that Clemens did something he rarely does. "I had
half a cup of coffee, and that got me going."
As if the almighty bean didn't already have enough clout in
Seattle. Properly boosted, the 38-year-old Rocket produced a
performance that gave the Yankees a 5-0 victory and a
three-games-to-one series lead. (The Mariners woke up in time to
win Game 5 and force a sixth game in New York on Tuesday.) "I
have never seen a pitcher dominate with pure power like that,"
said New York leftfielder David Justice, who spent most of the
1990s playing behind the peerless Atlanta Braves staff. "I saw
Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz shut down a lot of teams, but last
night? That was pure power."
Said Yankees manager Joe Torre, "He got to about the fifth or
sixth inning, and I could visualize Bob Gibson pitching against
Detroit in the World Series."
Clemens had been more Hoot Gibson than Bob Gibson in his previous
start, in Game 4 of the Division Series. Hoping to close out the
Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium, Torre started Clemens on
three days' rest. The result was a five-inning debacle, during
which Clemens was touched for six runs, and the Yankees lost
11-1. Clemens took the hill on Saturday after six days off and
clearly had a full head of steam. His fastball hummed in the
mid-90s and was clocked as high as 98 mph; he mixed that pitch
with a diving splitter that traveled near 90 mph. After the first
inning, in which he raised the Mariners' ire by buzzing two
high-caffeine fastballs near shortstop Alex Rodriguez's head,
Clemens darted into the clubhouse, where Reggie Jackson was
watching the game on TV. "Reggie, the ball's flying out of my
hand," Clemens told him. "My splitter's nasty."
The performance was an eye-opener for Torre, a primer, perhaps,
on how Clemens should be used in the fall. "The rest seemed to
help," said Torre. "He really didn't care about what team he was
facing. He was just going to give you what Roger Clemens had, and
he had a lot." Looking ahead to a possible World Series rotation,
Torre added, "I certainly would like to pitch him a couple of
times after he's had some rest."
Saturday's effort won't completely reverse Clemens's reputation
for shoddy postseason work--he's now 4-5 and has a 3.90 ERA in 15
postseason starts--but it's a step toward erasing an image that
bothers him. "I get tired of people thinking I'm trying too hard
and overthrowing in the playoffs," Clemens said after the game.
His catcher, Jorge Posada, noted, "The main thing today was how
poised and purposeful he was."
And not just on the mound. Minutes before game time, after he had
warmed up in the bullpen, Clemens called a friend, PGA Tour
golfer Billy Andrade, to deliver a pep talk. That afternoon
Andrade had completed the fourth round of the Invensys Classic
tied for the lead. "He told me just to finish it up, and I did,"
Andrade said on Sunday after clinching his first Tour victory in
Three hours and 138 pitches later, it was the Mariners who were