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 off 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
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.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Roger Clemens pitching]