Clemens not exactly Mr. October

October 04, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

CLEVELAND -- He faded into memory as each minute passed, as each fan departed, as each raindrop fell. Roger Clemens started this game. Started and put Boston in position to win. Few will remember. Few ever remember Clemens in October.

A two-out walk to Omar Vizquel, that's what got him this time. For all his Cy Young brilliance, for all his pennant-race magnificence, it's always something for Clemens in the postseason. Always something in October.

A two-out walk to Vizquel, and the Cleveland Indians had their opening. A hit-and-run single by Carlos Baerga. A two-run double by Albert Belle. An RBI single by Eddie Murray, and the Indians led 3-2.

Clemens had more than held his own, taking a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning. But on a night when he could have rewritten his October history, he wound up with a no-decision. The game ended near 1 a.m. Who remembered?

One-for-nine, that's Clemens in the postseason. One victory in nine career starts. Dave Stewart and Jack Morris are the preeminent October pitchers of this era. For one reason or another, Clemens hasn't gotten it done.

It wasn't his fault last night. Clemens held the highest-scoring team in baseball to three runs in seven innings, three runs on five hits. If not for one pivotal sequence in the sixth, this game might have ended a lot earlier.

The play occurred on Belle's double. Red Sox catcher Mike Macfarlane failed to hold a one-hop throw while attempting a sweep tag on Baerga, allowing the Indians' second run to score and Belle to reach third.

Baerga should have been out, Belle might have held on Murray's single, and the Red Sox could have led 2-1. Instead, the game went into extra innings after Boston tied it on a leadoff homer by No. 9 hitter Luis Alicea in the eighth.

A two-out walk to Vizquel started it.

Always something for Clemens in October.

Remember Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Clemens departed with a 3-2 lead, "asked out," according to manager John McNamara, left with fate waiting for Bill Buckner.

Remember Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS? Clemens donned war paint, got ejected in the second inning and all but lost his marbles with the Red Sox about to get swept by Oakland.

Last night, it was the two-out walk to Vizquel -- not nearly as extreme, not nearly as controversial, not nearly as embarrassing. But damaging nonetheless.

This was the night he was out to change everything. End Boston's 10-game postseason losing streak. Put Cleveland in a near-desperate position. And add to his Hall of Fame credentials.

Now, the burden falls to Erik Hanson, who is 3-0 against the Indians this season but has yet to face them in a game of this magnitude. Meanwhile, Cleveland's Orel Hershiser has won his past four starts, with a 2.45 ERA.

Hershiser tied Charles Nagy for the club lead with 16 victories, his most since winning 23 for the '88 Dodgers. This is the best he has thrown since then, and since undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery in '90.

Asked where he stood compared to '88, Hershiser said, "I'm very, very close. I was clocked my last start at 93 mph on one pitch. The game before, I had four or five pitches at 91.

"I'm averaging between 87 and 90 mph. Those numbers were just unheard of a year ago. When you can create that kind of arm speed, it gives you more movement, enables your ball to break sharper."

NB Hershiser went 3-0 in the '88 postseason, with shutouts in the

NLCS and World Series. He's 37 now, playing for a team far

superior to that Dodgers club. And he's just the pitcher you'd want to give the Indians a boost.

Clemens?

He hasn't been that clutch.

Never mind that he pitched a masterpiece with the flu in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS. Or that he is 28-15 lifetime in September and October regular-season games.

If somehow he misses the Hall of Fame -- and it shouldn't happen to a pitcher who has won three Cy Young Awards -- his postseason record might be a reason. That, and the injuries that have limited him to 182 victories.

Last night should have been different. Last night should have been the breakthrough. Clemens entered the game 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in his previous 11 starts. Forgotten was the shoulder injury that kept him on the disabled list until June 2.

He was 18-6 against Cleveland, though 0-2 at Jacobs Field. Belle was 7-for-41 (.171) with 15 strikeouts off him, Baerga 9-for-48 (.188), Kenny Lofton 5-for-22 (.227). The Indians hadn't dominated him the way they had other pitchers.

They didn't dominate him last night, either. Clemens retired his first nine hitters, then escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth by striking out Belle and inducing a groundout by Murray.

The sixth started innocently enough -- a popout by Sandy Alomar, a groundout by Lofton. Then came Vizquel, the pesky No. 2 hitter who is such a big part of the Indians' success.

A two-out walk, and the rally began.

Always something for Clemens in October.

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