Yanks top Mariners on eventful day
Shutout victory features clearing of benches, return of Clemens
NEW YORK -- This one won't be remembered for Darrell Rasner and how he pitched 5 2/3 innings of three-hit ball. It won't be remembered for how fast Brian Bruney rushed in from the bullpen when both benches cleared. It won't even be remembered for Hideki Matsui's 2,000th career hit.
No, this one wasn't about a 5-0 baseball game that the Yankees won over the Mariners. Everything was about a 44-year-old guy sitting in George Steinbrenner's box suite at Yankee Stadium. This man could be recognized from Boston to Houston, but he wouldn't want to be in any other city than New York.
Most of the Yankees players knew something was up when they heard Elton John's "Rocket Man" playing in the clubhouse before the game. And in the seventh inning, public-address announcer Bob Sheppard asked the fans to turn their attention to the suite behind home plate. All eyes turned and saw the renowned person.
"It's a privilege to be back," Roger Clemens said over a microphone.
Clemens will suit up with the Yankees for the rest of the 2007 season after signing a prorated one-year, $28 million contract on Sunday. He is expected to start his Yankees homecoming with four starts in the Minor Leagues.
"It's exciting when you get a notice like that," Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu said. "Like I said before, [he's] one of the best pitchers in the game, and you have him on your team. You get excited. It makes you feel happy."
Meanwhile, Rasner continued his string of recent strong pitching. He's allowed just one earned run in his last 23 1/3 combined innings of work in the Major and Minor Leagues. And his performance against the Mariners might have changed his fate with the Yankees.
Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Torre said Rasner would be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for right-hander Matt DeSalvo, who will get the start on Monday. But after Bruney had recorded the final out for the Yankees, Torre and Cashman acknowledged that they would meet on Monday to re-evaluate which roster moves the team would make.
Just one more hiccup in a day of drama at Yankee Stadium.
Aside from the Clemens uproar and potential roster shuffle, the Yankees and Mariners exchanged bad blood on Sunday. It all started when first baseman Josh Phelps rammed into Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima for the first run of the game in the fifth inning.
"[Seeing him] squat down tells me that he's getting ready to receive the ball," Phelps said, "and I'm not just going to let him catch the ball and tag me real quick."
Replays showed that a slide would have sufficed for the score, so the Mariners retaliated. Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn plunked Phelps in the back in his next trip to the plate.
Yankees reliever Scott Proctor threw a pitch high and inside to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the seventh, prompting Betancourt to point his bat at Proctor. Both benches cleared, and in came the bullpens. Torre and Proctor were ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt.
"When a guy takes out your catcher that way, you drill them, and I don't have a problem with them drilling us back," said Mariners second baseman Willie Bloomquist. "That's the way baseball is played. But don't go at a guy's head. Throwing a ball 95 mph at someone's head is taking it to a new level. Yuni had every right to be upset."
If that wasn't enough, Matsui got his 2,000th hit (combined between Japan and the Majors) in the sixth inning to become just the 46th player inducted into the Japanese "Golden Players Club," which is akin to a Hall of Fame for players in Japan. The club receives players once a certain milestone is reached; for batters, it's 2,000 hits.
Matsui's monumental double to left field didn't come in grand fashion. Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez lost the ball in the sun, and Matsui scooted into second base for what was originally ruled an error. The Yankees left fielder joked with Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter about which one of them had a worse 2,000th hit. Jeter's came on a dribbler toward third base.
After Matsui's comment, Jeter quipped back: "At least I had to run for mine."
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.