Yankees hope Clemens stops Diamondbacks' momentum
Updated: Tuesday October 30, 2001 3:34 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Squirming in a World Series corner after two losses in Arizona, the New York Yankees turn to a 39-year-old pitcher with a cranky hamstring who hasn't won in 41 days.
This, though, isn't any old pitcher. This is Roger Clemens, equipped with a 20-3 regular-season record that almost certainly will translate into a sixth Cy Young Award.
The problem is Clemens enters Tuesday night's game winless in six starts since Sept. 19 with three losses and three no-decisions over the last six weeks.
He had two losses and a no-decision in the final weeks of the season, then lost Game 1 of the American League division series against Oakland, coming out in the fifth inning when his right hamstring began hurting. He worked into the fifth of the decisive Game 5 of that series and got no decision.
Against Seattle in the American League championship series, he came out after five innings of Game 4, again with no decision. That extended his career postseason record to 5-6 with a 3.57 earned run average in 19 starts, rather ordinary for a pitcher whose dossier includes 280 victories.
Still, manager Joe Torre is entirely comfortable handing the ball to Clemens for Game 3.
"As far as the physical stuff, you never are really going to know until he goes out there," Torre said. "However, we feel good enough about him to have pitched him in Game 3, because if we felt that he was not able to pitch a Game 7, we would have pitched him in Game 4."
The road to a Game 7 has to start in Game 3 for a Yankees team caught in an 0-2 hole and knowing that no team has ever come back from 0-3 to win a World Series.
Clemens relishes the assignment.
"Physically, I feel great," he said. "I'll know how it goes each inning I pitch. I plan on going as hard and as long as I can and hopefully longer. The stamina and my strength have felt great. My pitches and my stuff was plenty good enough to go deep into the [last] game."
Overwhelmed in the first two games by Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the Yankees must find some offense against left-hander Brian Anderson, who will be making his first World Series start. Anderson was 4-9 in the regular season and his record pales alongside Clemens accomplishments.
Clemens sees the Yankees situation as a challenge, to him as well as the team.
"I hope it's a challenge we all look forward to," he said. "We knew what we were facing out there and those guys threw the ball exceptionally well. I think all the guys look forward to being back at home and look forward to the challenge of trying to make this somewhat of a series."
Clemens' postseason career has been a series of up and downs. He pitched the Yankees' clincher in the 1999 sweep against Atlanta and had a one-hitter in the ALCS against Seattle last year, his only complete game in 19 postseason starts. He also was the loser in a 13-1 rout against Boston in the 1999 ALCS and got hammered in a 11-1 loss against Oakland in last year's division series.
Then there was Game 2 of the World Series against the New York Mets last year when he threw a splintered bat at Mike Piazza, an episode that resulted in a $50,000 fine.
Still, the Yankees expressed a sense of confidence about having him on the mound.
"He's been our horse," catcher Jorge Posada said. "To have Rocket going is a good feeling. The days off have helped him. I know he's looking forward to getting on the mound."
And Clemens liked the idea of being the main man in this crisis.
"I enjoy the opportunity just to pitch," he said. "I mean whether I'm ailing or not feeling great, I still enjoy the challenges.
"I enjoy the opportunity everytime to go out there because I know guys are counting on me and it goes back to the work you do and your focus and all those things that we talk about."