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Closer Look

Martinez, unlike Clemens, made needed adjustments

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Posted: Saturday October 16, 1999 10:11 PM

  Roger Clemens Home was not so sweet for Clemens, who gave up five runs on six hits. AP

By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated

BOSTON -- The much-hyped battle between Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens in Game 3 of the ALCS -- one Boston newspaper gave it front-page billing as a heavyweght bout -- didn't turn out as expected, and not just because Clemens was gone from the game after two innings of work.

Instead of a toe-to-toe battle between two dominant hurlers on top of their games, Game 3 turned into a study in how pitchers adjust when they take the mound without their full quivers of arrows.

Deep down, the Yankees probably weren't exactly shocked that they managed just two hits and no runs and whiffed 12 times in the seven innings that they faced Martinez.

It was the way Pedro shut them down that left them shaking their heads. Still not 100 percent recovered from the muscle strain in his back that he suffered in Game 1 of the Division Series against Cleveland, Martinez attacked New York without his best fastball -- the one that he can blow past hitters at 96 mph.

Instead, he forced the Yankees to flail at his assortment of offspeed pitches: a devastating changeup that dives away from lefthanded hitters and a knee-buckling curveball that he commands better than most pitchers do their fastballs.

Martinez struck out the side in the fourth inning on 15 pitches, only two of which were fastballs. The few times in the game when he did throw heat he barely cracked 90 mph on the radar gun.

Still, Yankee hitters, lulled by the steady diet of junk pitches, had trouble catching up.

"He didn't have the velocity he had back then," Bernie Williams said after the game, referring to the Sept. 10 gem in which Martinez allowed one hit and struck out 17 Yankees in a 3-1 win. "But he had command of all his pitches. I think he did absolutely the best he could with the stuff he had today."

"He pitched us completely differently from the time before," added Derek Jeter.

Clemens, on the other hand, had his stuff-his fastball was crackling at 93 mph -- but he left his command in the clubhouse.

From the very beginning, he had trouble keeping the ball down. Instead, he left pitches over the plate and up in the strike zone. Boston's leadoff hitter, Jose Offerman, started the first inning by hammering a fastball into the right-field corner for a triple.

Five pitches later, John Valentin jumped on a high fastball and sent it over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead two batters into the game.

"If you look at the Texas game, everything he threw was down," said Yankees catcher Joe Girardi, who caught Clemens in his win over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Division Series. "Tonight, the wind was blowing out and the pitches were up. That's a bad combination."

For years, pitching coaches have told their pupils that the secret to success on the mound is how you adjust when you're not at your best. In Game 3 we saw two pitchers, two stars, two Cy Young Award winners -- neither of whom pitched to his full ability. One of them showed he'd been listening to those coaches.


 
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