The scattered boos that had greeted Roger Clemens when he first took the Fenway Park mound in an enemy uniform were gone, and so were the Boston Red Sox's hopes of beating him. The, Rocket reached back and launched himself to another level last Saturday, and Sox fans decided to hop on for the ride. If nothing else, here was something they had rarely seen since their erstwhile ace fled to Toronto after last season: a masterful pitching performance.
At the end of the eighth inning, after Clemens blew away Boston first baseman Mo Vaughn for his 16th strikeout of the game (a Blue Jays record), many of the fans bounced to their feet and surrendered to an unfamiliar urge: to applaud an opposing pitcher who had just made their best hitter look as bad as Bob Dylan. Regrettably, Clemens did not return for the ninth—he later said his strength was gone after he fired a 97-mph fastball, one of the 10 pitches with which he struck out the side—but Toronto held on for a 3-1 victory. It was Clemens's 14th win of the season, the most in the majors and more than he had in any of his last four years with the Red Sox. "It was a great deal of fun," said Clemens, who gave up only four hits and walked none. "It was a special day, a beautiful day."
When he bolted from Boston after 13 years, Clemens laid much of the blame for his departure at the feet of Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. As he walked oil the mound amid the cheers last Saturday, Clemens glared in the direction of the Boston owners' box (apparently unaware that Duquette sits elsewhere during games). Later he explained the look by saying that he "had a lot of family" at the game, but his wife and sons were sitting nowhere near the owners' box. Clearly, the bad blood between Clemens and the Red Sox front office still fuels the Rocket.
For his first spring training with Toronto, Clemens showed up in better shape than ever, and as he arrived in Boston on the Jays' first road trip after the All-Star break, he looked as trim and tight as he did a decade ago. Clemens, who was 40-39 in his final four Boston seasons, began this year on a mission, and he has not been deterred by the disappointing performances of many of his teammates. He won his first 11 decisions, thereby tying another club record, for consecutive victories, and last Saturday he lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.66. His eyes still burn with intensity each time he stares in for the sign. "He knows when he gets up there that he's going to get you out," says Vaughn, who struck out three times after being hit on the right shoulder by a Clemens pitch in the first inning. "He's one of the best at trying to get into your head."
Clemens, who turns 35 next month, said he chose Toronto because he wanted to win, and he is doing just that. Unfortunately, his team isn't following suit. So far the Blue Jays have wasted the best of Roger Clemens. If he had wanted to be out of the pennant race by the middle of July, he could have stayed in Boston.