Roger and out
Clemens leaves playoff opener with tight hamstring
Updated: Thursday October 11, 2001 12:57 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Rocket misfired in the Yankees' playoff opener, just like last year.
This wasn't the Roger Clemens who blew away batters all season on his way to 20 wins.
This was the Clemens who struggled with leg injuries through his first 1 1/2 seasons with the Yankees.
Looked upon to dominate against Oakland's powerful pitchers, Clemens struggled through four innings, left in the fifth with a tight hamstring and wound up as the loser in the Athletics' 5-3 victory Wednesday night.
Picking up Johnny Damon's bouncer leading off the fourth, Clemens felt that familiar twinge in his leg.
"Like a zinger. It burned," he said after the game. "It's pretty numb right now."
Clemens never looked comfortable out on the mound and could have left with an even larger deficit if not for two outstanding fielding plays he made on comebackers, saving three runs.
New York finally took him out as a precaution following a leadoff walk to Jason Giambi in the fifth. Clemens will be re-evaluated Thursday.
"We hope he is going to be all right," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Clemens allowed all five leadoff batters he faced to reach. Still, he was satisfied with his performance.
"You know it's there, but I can still feel I can make the pitches," he said. "You just have to alter a little bit when you push off the mound. Once you realize it's there, that's half the battle, so you don't get wild in the zone."
Clemens, who lost Games 1 and 4 against Oakland last year, is 0-4 against the A's in the postseason, 5-2 against everyone else.
He allowed a run in the first when Johnny Damon singled, stole second, took third on Miguel Tejada's groundout and came around on Jason Giambi's sacrifice fly.
Terrence Long hit the first of his two homers leading off the fourth, a drive that just cleared the right-field wall.
"I think even the home run was down where I wanted it, maybe six, eight inches off the ground," Clemens said.
His defense kept the Yankees in the game. Clemens snared Tejada's hard bouncer up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs in the second, and Eric Chavez's comebacker with one out and a runner on third in the following inning.
Clemens also fumbled Damon's slow bouncer in the fourth when he tried to pick it with his bare hand, a play ruled a hit.
During the regular season, Clemens stopped skids, with the Yankees going 27-5 in his starts. But against Oakland in October, the Rocket starts the slide, he doesn't end it.
Even after they beat him, the A's sounded awed.
"Roger," Long said, "is probably the best in the game right now."