Then came a Wilson at bat that would have nearly as much importance as the one five innings later. After Clemens threw two fastballs past him and the count reached 2 and 2, Mookie fouled off two pitches. Clemens then tried to get a slider in. The slider to Knight had hurt Clemens, but this one hurt him twice as much. Not only was the pitch out over the plate, but Clemens also released it in such a way that it popped a blister that had been developing on his index finger. Wilson pulled a ground-ball single into right. The ball took a final, fidgety hop in front of Evans and bounced off his chest. Knight, a slow runner who never would have challenged Evans's rifle arm, dashed to third base.
The Mets still trailed 2-1, but they had runners at the corners with none out. Santana, a .218 hitter during the season, was due up, followed by Ojeda. Here came the first of Johnson's second-guessed maneuvers. He had Danny Heep bat for Santana, who had had two hits off Clemens in Game 2. That meant Johnson's only remaining shortstops were Kevin Elster, a nervous rookie with 22 games of big league experience, and Howard Johnson, a utilityman who is considered a defensive liability.
"How could you be pinch-hitting that early?" Bowa asked.
"I thought it might be our one shot to get Clemens out of there," Johnson replied.
Johnson was subscribing to the strategy Earl Weaver had taught him: Use your guns whenever you think your time has come, no matter what inning. But as another manager puts it, "He was only going to use Ojeda one more inning, so why not keep Santana in the game and bat for the pitcher?" Heep hit into a double play that tied the score at 2-2, and Ojeda grounded out. He pitched one more inning, keeping the Sox at bay in the sixth.
Clemens's blister prevented him from throwing his slider, and because he didn't have a particularly good curveball in the late season, he decided simply to move his fastball around and change speeds. Wally Backman and Hernandez singled with one out in the sixth, but Clemens struck out Carter with a perfect pitch on the outside corner. He then held his breath as Barrett snapped up Strawberry's sharp grounder.
In the top of the seventh Roger McDowell walked leadoff hitter Barrett. Rather than sacrifice him over—the Red Sox were 1 for 4 trying to bunt in the game—McNamara removed the bunt sign for Buckner and sent Barrett. Buckner grounded out, moving Barrett into scoring position. When Knight fielded Rice's routine grounder and threw the ball over Hernandez's head, Boston had runners at first and third with one out and Evans up. On a 3-and-2 count, McNamara sent Rice. Sure enough, Evans hit a perfect double-play ball to Backman. However, Rice beat Backman's flip to Elster, and though Elster's throw got Evans at first, Barrett had scored to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Red Sox had a chance to make it 4-2 when Gedman punched a two-out single through the shortstop hole into left-field. With two outs in a big ballpark, and considering Wilson's weak arm, Lachemann naturally waved Rice around third. However, Rice cut the bag like a 16-wheeler turning into a McDonald's, while Wilson charged the ball and released it quickly. The ball arrived in Carter's mitt on a fly, and Rice was out. "How we didn't score and put the game away in the first eight innings is just as much the story as what happened in the 10th," Barrett said later.
Clemens held the lead in the bottom of the seventh, retiring the side on 17 pitches—giving him 135 for the game. But while pitching to Wilson—naturally—he tore the fingernail on his middle finger, and when he got back to the dugout, he was bleeding from two fingers. McNamara and pitching coach Bill Fischer approached him.
"Does it sting?" McNamara asked.