Rocket boosts Yankees with seven dominant innings
Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2001 1:33 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Bush started off with a strike and Roger Clemens kept them coming.
The Yankees' season was spinning out of control, needing someone to step up and hold off Arizona, to give New York's offense time to awaken from its World Series slumber.
The Rocket came up big, allowing nearly nothing. He started 23 of 27 batters with strikes and showed the Diamondbacks some of the same stuff that Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson threw at the Yankees back in the desert last weekend, giving up three hits, just like them.
Then he handed the ball to Mariano Rivera, who got six straight outs, giving New York a 2-1 victory and closing the Yankees to two games to one in the World Series.
"I've pitched big games, little games, makes no difference," Clemens said. "I just enjoy -- I relish the moment."
Clemens struck out nine, the way he did in Game 2 last year against the New York Mets. Only this time, he'll be remembered for the pitches he threw, not the shattered bat.
Sometimes, it seems as if Clemens can't do enough to please Yankees' fans. When he won the 1999 Series clincher against Atlanta and walked that line atop the Yankees' dugout in the postgame excitement, they said well, yes, he won, but New York was up three games to none.
When he pitched a one-hitter against Seattle in last year's AL playoffs, he was remembered for putting Alex Rodriguez in the dirt. And then came that weird moment, when he tossed the bat fragment in front of Mike Piazza.
None of that Tuesday night. It was straight and simple.
"For a pitcher as great as Roger has been, he's really had to defend himself a lot," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "After this game tonight, I don't think he will have to defend himself again. He was dynamite. Dynamite."
After Bush opened with a first pitch that most major league relievers would be proud of, the Rocket took over. He didn't have his best stuff, but he mastered what he had, and won for the first time in seven starts since Sept. 19.
"When President Bush came out, I stopped warming up," Clemens said. "I wanted to take in that moment. There's a lot of things that went on this evening that I will remember for a long time."
Bush even helped out his fellow Texan.
"I was reminded during my warmup when I watched the president throw his first pitch -- the flashes," Clemens recalled. "It reminded me when I got ready to turn loose my first pitch to really lock in because there's probably going to be some pictures being taken. And to be honest with you, I didn't notice it, so that was a good thing."
"He was yelling at himself and just trying to make sure that he kept his focus," Torre said.
Clemens' hamstring -- the one that slowed him against Oakland and Seattle -- started acting up in the fourth. But then it went away.
"I was actually able to get a second wind," Clemens said.
In the sixth, with the score 1-all and maybe some Yankees' fans wondering if the dynasty was finally coming to an end, he escaped again. First, Alfonso Soriano saved a run by diving and snaring Erubiel Durazo's grounder, forcing Reggie Sanders to hold at third. Then, Shane Spencer dived and caught Williams' sinking liner to left.
Clemens punched his fist in the air. Scott Brosius gave him a lead in the bottom half, and the Rocket pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, tying his Series strikeout high.
"I think he realized what we needed from him," Torre said, "and he gave us every bit of it."
He has five Cy Young Awards and is the favorite to get his sixth.
Still, some Yankees' fans will say it was only Game 3. Maybe they want to wait until he wins a Game 7 -- which could happen Sunday.
"The only critics I really worry about are the guys I perform with," Clemens said. "I think if you ask any of my critics over my 18 years, they would give you definite and true answers."