On the mound Clemens operated with the measured manner of a surgeon performing a routine appendectomy. He threw 79 fastballs among his 103 pitches, including heaters on the first pitch to 23 of the 26 batters he faced. He allowed five base runners on three hits and two walks, but none made it as far as third base. On the few occasions when he did fall behind a batter, he turned his back to the plate to make certain centerfielder Bernie Williams was playing deep. Then he'd throw tailing fastballs to the outside of the plate to take advantage of the biggest expanse of the ballpark. Williams chased down four flies there. Clemens, whose faith rests on the investment of an extra mile or an extra set of leg lifts, came out from his little dark corner.
"He's usually screaming at us in the infield, things like, 'Let's go!' " Knoblauch said afterward. "This time he was calm, with a quiet confidence about himself."
Clemens figures to carry that confidence into another homecoming game, his likely Game 3 start on Saturday at Fenway Park. He's 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA in seven starts against Boston since he left the Red Sox as a free agent following the 1996 season. Clemens has prospered when Torre has given him extra rest this year, as will be the case against Boston. He's 9-3 with a 3.75 ERA with five or more days of rest, compared to 6-7 with a 5.36 ERA in his regular turn. Next to Babe Ruth, Clemens is the greatest player to know both sides of one of baseball's top rivalries.
In a private area of the clubhouse afterward, Clemens hugged his mother, other family members, college buddies and all the other people, as he put it, who are "close to me who wouldn't have been able to see me pitch a weeknight game in New York. That's what made this so special." Cone said he saw relief in their eyes, too.
Clemens is 37 years old, and this was the first postseason game he had won since he was 24, when he pitched Game 7 of the 1986 Championship Series for the Red Sox against the California Angels. "The champagne never gets any warmer," he said. "It definitely gets colder as you go."
The Yankees are such a prudent team that Girardi made sure that the visiting clubhouse man ordered mostly nonalcoholic champagne, partly in deference to designated hitter Darryl Strawberry, the recovering alcoholic who gave Clemens all his runs with a three-run bomb of a home run in the first inning. Ersatz bubbly dripped from Clemens's spiked haircut, down the nape of his neck and over a scrape across the back of his shoulders. Clemens is such a fanatical runner that he's known to scale chain-link fences along his way. The scratch was a reminder that not all his obstacles are so easily cleared.