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Steve Wulf
October 08, 1990
Roger Clemens's return lifted Boston in its battle with Toronto
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October 08, 1990

A Boost From The Rocket

Roger Clemens's return lifted Boston in its battle with Toronto

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Starting catcher Tony Pena came out for the last five minutes of warmups. At 3:13, Clemens and Pena walked back to the dugout to a standing ovation. Clemens would later say, "When the crowd gets behind you like that, it almost makes you feel invincible." In the upper deck, above the Boston dugout, hung a banner that read PLEASE FORGIVE US BABE.

At 3:21 Clemens made his first pitch, to Wilson, and Fenway let go a sigh of relief. He got Wilson to ground out, and after walking Tony Fernandez, he struck out Gruber and Fred McGriff. Clemens got a double-play ball in the second and escaped a jam in the third. "I know the man," said Fischer later, "and I admire him as much as anyone. But I didn't think he could go more than three innings."

But he did. Clemens went six shutout innings, throwing 93 pitches, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out five and lowering his league-leading ERA to 1.93. Said Fischer, "It was the most amazing feat I have ever seen in baseball. After this, I think Roger could fly a jet plane. I think he could probably walk on water too." Clemens may not be able to do that, but, as per his custom on days that he pitches, he ran through the streets around the ballpark after his stint was over.

Toronto's starter, Todd Stottlemyre, matched goose eggs with Clemens for four innings, but in the fifth he gave up a solo homer to Brunansky, the man with the enchanted bat. After Stottlemyre loaded the bases in the sixth, Gaston brought in reliever Duane Ward. Dwight Evans hit a little puff pastry through the right side of the infield to drive in two runs. Brunansky followed with another homer, a three-run shot, to give the Red Sox a 6-0 lead and stick it to some of his critics, those Boston fans who are aghast that Brunansky is seeking a contract in the $3 million range from the Red Sox at the conclusion of the season.

His third home run, a solo smash off Rick Luecken, put Boston ahead 7-0. "Bruno looked like he was playing slo-pitch softball," Evans said. Nothing comes easy for the Red Sox, though. In the ninth, Gruber hit a two-out grand slam to close the score to 7-5 before Morgan again summoned Reardon, who got Boston's final out for the third game in a row.

Clemens, though, was the talk of the clubhouse afterward. "Like Babe Ruth," Morgan said. "Babe would play the outfield, then when the team needed a shutout, he'd come in and pitch a shutout. That's what Roger did for us today."

Clemens said he felt fine after the game. "I got a little tired, that's all," he said. "It feels good to be part of the team again. I just didn't want to go out there and leave after a third of an inning or something."

Just then Brunansky came over. "You were unbelievable," he told Clemens.

"No, you were," Clemens said.

By now, Boston fans would have believed it if the Bambino himself had taken the mound the next day. Unfortunately, only the curse returned. Friday's game had drama. Saturday's game had suspense. What did Sunday's game have? "There was a lot of slop out there," said Morgan. Boston pitchers allowed 19 hits, Toronto batters left 13 men on base, and both teams gave how-not-tos on outfield and infield play. The baserunning was bad as well. Asked about the aesthetic quality of the game, Gaston said, "It's not pretty if you lose, but it's pretty if you win."

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