He is one of the most fearsome pitchers in baseball, the Rocket Man with the supersonic arm and the fierce will to win.
Roger Clemens, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, is again one of the leading candidates.
But when he faces the Baltimore Orioles tonight (or tomorrow, depending on the weather), Clemens will be attempting to break a three-game winless streak in their personal series.
Still, the Orioles do not look forward to the latest meeting, which pits Clemens against struggling Dave Johnson, not resurgent Bob Milacki, after last night's game was rained out and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader at 5:05 p.m. today.
Milacki goes against Boston's Tom Bolton, last night's scheduled starter in the nightcap, but the feature remains Clemens -- against whomever he pitches.
"We have been lucky against him," Randy Milligan said of Clemens. "When you see him, it's not just another day in the park. Even with his mediocre stuff, you know he can beat you."
The Orioles defeated Clemens in their only meeting this year, June 2 at Fenway Park, 5-1, behind the since-departed Roy Smith and Mark Williamson, who combined for a four-hitter.
And in his past three starts against Baltimore, Clemens is 0-2 and has allowed 21 hits in 18 2/3 innings. The current Orioles have batted .260 against him.
Still, he has a 2.41 ERA during that span, having been the victim of some poor defensive support.
His most recent victory over the Orioles came Aug. 11, 1989, and the losing pitcher was Milacki.
"In a way it affects you when you're pitching against a guy like him," said Milacki, who lost, 6-4, in that game two years ago.
"It's always in the back of your mind who's out there. But you don't have to hit off him and he doesn't hit off you. You know you have to go out there and keep us in the game because every mistake can be costly."
Johnson doesn't mind the switch in the matchups and actually sounded as if he preferred to pitch the opening game.
"Why have to wait around and worry if the first game goes long?" he said. "This way you know when you're starting. Roger and I have a date with destiny."
In two starts against Clemens, Johnson has fared well, winning, 7-2, June 18 last year on a route-going nine-hitter and working to a no-decision in a game the Red Sox eventually won, 4-3, in 10 innings when Dwight Evans homered against Gregg Olson.
Boston manager Joe Morgan would not elaborate on the change in the order, but Orioles manager John Oates said, "I guarantee ** you they don't want to start Roger in the first game and have it rained out in the fourth inning.
"They would lose him for a couple days and they want him starting as much as possible in this situation."
Milacki said an opposing pitcher can't be concerned about how Clemens performs and must remain as calm as possible to alleviate pressure on himself.
"When you start thinking too much about how well you have to pitch, the mistakes follow," he said.
Johnson has had a lost season and was raked by the Red Sox for eight hits and five runs in 2 1/3 innings last Wednesday. He has not won as a starter since Aug. 6.
But he has pitched some excellent games in the heat of pennant races, the most memorable on the next-to-last day of 1989 when TC he replaced injured Pete Harnisch in Toronto in a game the Orioles had to win.
He left with a 2-1 lead, but the team eventually lost and the Blue Jays clinched the division.
To become 3-0 at home against the Red Sox, he probably will have to outpitch Clemens, who is 7-4 lifetime against the Orioles. It is an intriguing matchup.
"I don't look at it as being anything special any time you have to see Clemens," said Milligan. "You know it's going to be a tough day regardless of the outcome.
"We know we've got to hold [the Red Sox's offense] because you can't count on Roger giving anything up."
Clemens vs. Orioles
Roger Clemens' last 5 starts against the Orioles:
Date.. .. .. .. IP.. H.. R.. BB.. K.. Res.
April 3, '89 .. 7 .. 7.. 4.. 3 .. 4.. ND
Aug. 11, '89 .. 7 .. 3.. 1.. 5 .. 8.. W
June 18, '90 .. 1 2/3 .. 7.. 6.. 2 .. 3.. L
June 23, '90 .. 9 .. 6.. 2.. 5 .. 4.. ND
June 2, '91. .. 8 .. 8.. 3.. 1 .. 3.. L