Work in Sports
Mariners left to marvel at Clemens' dominance
Updated: Sunday October 15, 2000 2:48 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
It's because of a stocky outfielder from West Covina, Calif., that Don Larsen's place in history is completely safe.
One might have expected Al Martin -- who broke up Roger Clemens' no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the seventh inning -- and the rest of the Seattle Mariners to be sad, embarrassed, hurt or otherwise deflated after being one-hit, struck out 15 times and put down 3-1 in the American League Championship Series.
But the overriding emotion in the Seattle clubhouse seemed rather to be that of awe.
"I knew after my second pitch that we'd be in for a long night," Martin said. "It was a forkball that dropped a good foot and broke hard right. I've seen some pretty good games, and I don't know if you can pitch better."
Center fielder Mike Cameron put Clemens' dominance in layman's terms. Asked if he went up to the plate looking for splitters and trying to protect against Clemens' 97-mph fastballs, Cameron said, "If you go up looking for the splitter, you might as well stick your fingers in your ass."
Clemens was that good. While Larsen's record -- a 1956 World Series perfect game -- remained sacred, Mike Mussina's and Livan Hernandez's 15 strikeouts in a league championship game and New York Met Bobby Jones' distinction of being the only pitcher to throw a one-hit shutout since the deadball era (1967) all had their novelty extinguished Saturday night.
Clemens painted the black with his fastball and had sharp, late movement on his slider and splitter. While John Olerud insisted that he had gotten a few hitable pitches, most of the Mariners were less sure.
"I don't recall one pitch I should have hit but didn't," shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "There's not much a hitter can do. This is one of those special performances where you just tip your cap and move on."
Rodriguez almost had his cap tipped for him by the first two pitches he saw from Clemens in the first inning. Since he entered the game with a .341 average and Clemens is known for punishing players for hitting him well (ask Mike Piazza), the evening's subplot became, intentional or no?
Rodriguez declined comment on the incident, though he did make occasional sarcastic quips about Clemens' command: "I guess his control was a bit off." Informed that Clemens claimed merely to be trying to get in on Rodriguez's hands, Rodriguez retorted, "He missed a couple of times." Seattle manager Lou Piniella was less vague. "If [Clemens] wants to get his hitters thrown at, that's fine with me," Piniella said.
Indeed, Mariners starter Paul Abbott floored catcher Jorge Posada with a pitch in the second inning. Befitting the mood of his entire locker room, Abbott could only chuckle when asked about the game. "I wish I were in the stands watching so I could really enjoy it," he said. "From where I was sitting, it wasn't much fun."