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Rocket fuels Yanks to Game 3 win
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10/04/2003  4:30 PM ET 
Rocket fuels Yanks to Game 3 win
Clemens goes seven, while Matsui goes deep
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com

Roger Clemens had the Twins firmly in his grasp for seven innings Saturday at the Metrodome. (Morry Gash/AP)
  • Game 3 wrapup: Yankees 3, Twins 1

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Over the past few days, Roger Clemens has answered many questions about the possibility of Saturday being the final start of his Hall of Fame career.

    Clemens went out and did his best to assure that it would not be, pitching the Yankees to a 3-1 win over the Twins in Game 3 of their American League Division Series.

    "You want to be defiant," Clemens said about the last-start talk. "You just don't want that to be the case. It never entered my mind, especially once I was out there working."

    Clemens allowed one run on five hits over seven innings, striking out six. With his outing, New York's starters have allowed just five runs over 21 innings in the series, going 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA.

    "He gave us some courageous outing today," said manager Joe Torre. "He did a great job."

    New York leads the series, 2-1, and will try to advance to the AL Championship Series with a win on Sunday at the Metrodome. David Wells gets the start for the Yankees, while Game 1 starter Johan Santana takes the mound for the Twins.

        Hideki Matsui   /   OF
    Height: 6'1"
    Weight: 210
    Bats/Throws: L/R

    More info:
    Player page
    Stats
    Splits
    Hit chart
    Yankees site

    Clemens didn't need much offensive support on Saturday, getting what he required on a single swing by Hideki Matsui in the second inning. Matsui crushed a high fastball from Twins starter Kyle Lohse to right field, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead with his first career postseason home run.

    "He certainly was looking for something up, the way he got above it," Torre said. "For a left-handed hitter, that's not easy to get above a fastball. It was huge for us."

    "Matsui's home run got the crowd quiet," Clemens said. "It was my job from that point on to keep the noise down and the momentum on our side."

    New York added to the lead in the third, as Bernie Williams continued his hot series, singling in Juan Rivera to give the Yankees a 3-0 advantage. Williams, who doubled in the second and scored on Matsui's homer, is 5-for-10 with two walks in the first three games of the ALDS.

    Clemens looked good after issuing a walk to Shannon Stewart to lead off the game, sitting down the next six Twins batters. A.J. Pierzynski got Minnesota's first hit, belting a solo home run to right field to lead off the third, but Clemens wasn't rattled, retiring eight of the next nine hitters he faced.

    "He had a very good fastball and he was hitting corners with it," said catcher Jorge Posada. "He did everything. He threw splitters and sliders for strikes. He was pumped."

    "Maybe because he thought it was his last start, he threw a hell of a lot of split-fingers," said Torii Hunter. "All I can say, it looks like it hurts him when he throws it. That's how nasty it is. You think something like that would hurt him. It doesn't -- he has a rubber arm."

    Back-to-back singles by Cristian Guzman and Stewart with two outs in the fifth got the 55,915 at the Metrodome going, but Clemens struck out pinch-hitter Michael Ryan to end the threat, pumping his fist as he walked off the field.

    "I looked him in the face and it sort of hit me where I was at. I tried to block it out," said the rookie Ryan of facing Clemens. "He threw a splitty on the second pitch and he threw me a splitty on the fourth pitch to strike me out. It had two different spins on them and different speeds."

    Lohse, pitching on his 25th birthday, was pulled after five innings, having allowed three runs on six hits. Lohse walked two and struck out three in his first career postseason start.

    Doug Mientkiewicz opened the sixth with a single against Clemens, advancing to second when Williams bobbled the ball in center field. Clemens wasn't bothered as he retired the next three batters, stranding Mientkiewicz in scoring position to maintain the two-run lead.

    "He was breaking their hearts a lot, pitching out of jams," said Jason Giambi. "It can be deflating to the crowd. Rocket silenced them pretty quick."

       Roger Clemens   /   P
    Height: 6'4"
    Weight: 238
    Bats/Throws: R/R

    More info:
    Player page
    Stats
    Splits
    Astros site

    Clemens came back out for the seventh, while Jose Contreras and Gabe White warmed in the Yankees' bullpen. The Rocket didn't need any help, though, breezing past the Twins in order on just 10 pitches.

    "I had exactly what I had in the first inning," Clemens said of the seventh. "Mel (Stottlemyre) wanted me to empty the tank, and for some reason, my emotions and everything came rushing back in that last inning."

    "Toward the end, we were just having fun," Posada said. "He was locked in, poised and had a lot of determination. It was like he was looking forward to throwing each pitch."

    That would be Clemens' last inning. The Yankees brought in closer Mariano Rivera for a two-inning save.

    "I call Mo 'The Equalizer,' because when he comes in, all things aren't equal," Clemens said. "I told him I would have retired a long time ago if I had him, because I'd probably have 350 wins."

        Mariano Rivera   /   P
    Height: 6'2"
    Weight: 185
    Bats/Throws: R/R

    More info:
    Player page
    Stats
    Splits
    Yankees site

    Rivera, who retired all six batters he faced in Game 2, accomplished the same feat Saturday to notch his second two-inning save in three days. The save was Rivera's 27th in the playoffs, extending his own Major League record.

    "I didn't want to go with him for two innings today, but I ran out of courage," Torre said. "He's an everyday player for us, especially in the postseason."

    Clemens, who plans to retire after the season, knows there is a chance that he has thrown his last big-league pitch. New York still needs one win to guarantee the 41-year-old one more start, a fact the Rocket was quick to point out after Saturday's win.

    "We haven't accomplished anything yet," Clemens said. "We've put ourselves in a good position, but we have to come back here and do it again. That's the bottom line."

    Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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