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Rocket boost

Clemens fires one-hit, 15-strikeout gem at Mariners

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Posted: Saturday October 14, 2000 9:59 PM
Updated: Sunday October 15, 2000 7:15 AM

  Derek Jeter Derek Jeter broke a scoreless duel with a three-run homer off Seattle starter Paul Abbott in the fifth inning. AP

SEATTLE (AP) -- So much for the doubts that Roger Clemens and these New York Yankees were too old to win.

Pitching the greatest game of his flawed postseason career, Clemens threw a one-hitter and struck out a record-setting 15 as the Yankees beat Seattle 5-0 Saturday and moved within one win of another World Series trip.

Clemens brushed back Alex Rodriguez, then brought the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series. Al Martin doubled off the glove of leaping first baseman Tino Martinez in the seventh inning for Seattle's only hit.

"Tonight was special," Clemens said. "The ball was jumping out of my hand."

In a testy, tense affair that saw Mariners manager Lou Piniella shout a string of profanities toward the New York dugout after some early brushbacks, the Yankees won with power pitching and power hitting.

Derek Jeter hit a three-run homer in the fifth and David Justice launched a two-run shot in the eighth. That was plenty for Clemens, who used 97 mph fastballs to set a nine-inning ALCS record for strikeouts.

"It was total dominance," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Yankees Locker Room: This was vintage older Clemens, reports Sports Illustrated's Jamal Greene. As his age has risen Clemens' pitching palette has sunk: he had the Mariners flailing at fastballs low in the zone and splitters that dove beneath it.

Mariners Locker Room: While John Olerud insisted that he had gotten a few hitable pitches, most of his teammates were less sure. The Mariners were essentially in awe of Roger Clemens, writes Sports Illustrated's Stephen Cannella.

Closer Look: In retrospect, we should have seen it coming, says's David Vecsey. Not simply because Roger Clemens was overdue for a dominant postseason performance, but because Clemens came out in the first inning and declared that THIS was it.


The Yankees can wrap up their 37th AL pennant and a chance at their third straight World Series title -- possibly in a Subway Series -- when Denny Neagle starts against Freddy Garcia in Game 5 on Sunday.

And suddenly, all those white towels Mariners fans have been waving at Safeco Field might wind up being flags of surrender.

Though other teams have done it, never have the Yankees blown a 3-1 lead in a seven-game postseason series.

Coming off two losses to Oakland in the division series that dropped his postseason record to 3-5, Clemens had become the symbol of what was wrong with the Yankees. At 38, some thought the future Hall of Famer with five-time Cy Young awards and his teammates were too old and broken down to keep their run going.

"I left a lot of games with leads and didn't get wins. Pitched poorly a handful of times, too," Clemens said.

This time, the Rocket showed otherwise from the start -- and with a vengeance.

"The way he threw today, he erased a lot of the questions about him in postseason," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "A lot of people doubted him, but we didn't."

Martinez vainly jumped to catch Martin's leadoff liner, but the ball glanced off the very tip of his glove and rolled into the right-field corner. It was a clean hit, and the official scorer immediately ruled it that way.

"I couldn't get it. It was the best I could jump," Martinez said.

After striking out Stan Javier and Martin to start the bottom of the first, Clemens buzzed Rodriguez with two fastballs. Rodriguez eventually walked, making him the only Mariners hitter to reach until the seventh.

"I have my own thoughts on that, and I don't want to discuss them," Rodriguez said.

In the top of the second, losing pitcher Paul Abbott threw a fastball near Posada's head, and that's when the shouting started.

One-on-One: Derek Jeter
Click the image to launch the clip's John Giannone talked Game 3 offensive hero Derek Jeter after the win. Start
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From the Mariners' first-base dugout, Piniella started screaming across the way. Fans in the front row -- including the world's richest man, Bill Gates -- could certainly hear the world-class tirade, with Piniella vowing his team would not back down.

"He wants to throw at our guys, we'll throw at his guys," Piniella said after the game. "I was just trying to let him know we'll protect our hitters, period."

Said Torre: "It was animated. I can understand. Lou's a fiery guy."

Before the bottom of the second, umpire crew chief John Hirschbeck walked in from second base to talk with Clemens on the mound. Clemens has a history of throwing inside, having beaned Mets star Mike Piazza this summer.

"I told him: 'I'm not saying you threw at Rodriguez or accusing you of that. But obviously they thought you did because of that pitch to Posada,"' Hirschbeck said.

"I said: 'Let's just let it be done, or else I'll have to issue warnings.' He said, 'I hear you, John. I'm all set,"' he said.

In the fourth, Martin was retired on a play in which Clemens covered first base. The two bumped shoulders after crossing the bag and Clemens raised an elbow.

But in the seventh, Martin hit back with a liner that prevented Clemens from throwing only the second no-hitter in postseason history. Don Larsen threw a perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn in the 1956 World Series.

Clemens, who has never pitched a no-hitter in the majors, said he was not aware he had one in progress until he saw the boxscore on the clubhouse TV in the fourth inning.

"I wasn't really focused on that, I was focused on winning the game."

The Mariners, meanwhile, are batting only .183 in the series and have scored just five runs.

It was the second one-hitter in a week for a New York pitcher, with Bobby J. Jones of the Mets doing it in an NL division clincher against San Francisco.

Have a Seat!
Most strikeouts in a postseason game
Year  Pitcher  Round  K  
1968  Bob Gibson  W.S.    17   
1998  Kevin Brown  NLDS    16   
1963  Sandy Koufax  W.S.    15   
1997  Mike Mussina  ALCS    15   
1997  Livan Hernandez  NLCS    15   
2000  Roger Clemens   ALCS    15   
1953  Carl Erskine  W.S.    14   
1972  Joe Coleman  ALCS    14   
1975  John Candelaria  NLCS    14   
1975  Mike Boddicker  ALCS    14   
1986  Mike Scott  NLCS    14   

The scrape between Clemens and Martin was the last sign of trouble. Clemens mowed down the Mariners, much the way he did in setting a major league strikeout record by fanning 20 Seattle hitters on April 29, 1986, while with Boston.

The Mariners threatened only once. Martin's double and a two-out walk to John Olerud brought up Mike Cameron as the tying run, but he struck out with Clemens punctuating it with an exaggerated fist pump.

The Yankees broke through against Abbott in the fifth. Scott Brosius singled with two outs, Chuck Knoblauch worked out a walk and Jeter homered to dead center.

Jeter blew a bubble as he ran toward first base and raised his right fist when he saw the ball clear Cameron's leap.

Abbott left with tightness in his right shoulder after the fifth. Justice homered off Jose Mesa.

Notes: Clemens has 21 regular-season wins against Seattle, the most by a Mariners opponent. ... Seattle catcher Dan Wilson struck out twice, leaving him 2-for-54 (.037) lifetime in postseason play.

Related information
ALCS Notebook: Game 4
Clemens inches from no-hitter
Jeter's three-run homer backs Clemens
Piniella shakes up Mariners lineup to no avail
Yankees-Mariners Box Score
Yankee skipper Joe Torre says Roger Clemens and his team executed to a "T" in the win. (301 K)
Lou Piniella says if Yankee hurlers want to throw at his hitters, Seattle pitchers will return fire. (131 K)
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