Clemens puts N.Y. on surer footing

Pitcher goes more than five innings for first time since hurting hamstring

World Series

October 31, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The hamstring felt good enough for Roger Clemens to dance off the mound in the seventh inning, his right hand clenched as if ready to deliver a staggering blow.

That's what the Arizona Diamondbacks had been hoping to do.

Clemens made sure the New York Yankees were standing last night because his right leg remained strong. He struck out nine over seven innings, outlasting Arizona's Brian Anderson, and the Yankees regained their footing in the World Series with a 2-1 victory in Game 3.

Another loss would have put them a game away from being swept. Another loss would have demoralized a city that so badly wants to bust loose and celebrate a fourth consecutive championship.

No team has recovered from a 3-0 deficit in games to win the Series. With Arizona's Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson waiting their respective turns, the Yankees didn't figure to become the exception.

Clemens hadn't gone more than five innings since straining his hamstring in the AL Division Series. Despite a wind chill that lowered the temperature into the 30s, Clemens didn't experience the same tightness that cut short his last three starts. He threw 109 pitches, and first-pitch strikes to 23 of 27 batters.

"For a pitcher as great as Roger's been, he's really had to defend himself a lot," manager Joe Torre said. "After this game, I don't think he'll ever have to defend himself again. He gave us more than we hoped for."

Said Clemens: "To me, it's just an honor to have this opportunity at this stage of my career. I relish the moment."

The only run off Clemens came in the fourth when Matt Williams lifted a sacrifice fly. Two defensive gems, by second baseman Alfonso Soriano that held Reggie Sanders at third and left fielder Shane Spencer that stranded two, kept the score tied in the sixth.

The same support wasn't available to Anderson, who left after 5 1/3 innings and Arizona's third error of the night. He was tagged with the loss when reliever Mike Morgan allowed a soft single to Scott Brosius, with left fielder Luis Gonzalez giving a slow chase on a ball that scored inherited runner Bernie Williams.

The usual questions accompanied Anderson for his stroll into Game 3.

Could he get through the early innings after not starting since Sept. 8?

Could he stay in one piece?

An looked nothing like the pitcher who went 4-9 with a 5.20 ERA and battled an assortment of injuries and illnesses.

There was a virus that brought a 104-degree fever, a sprained ankle, a bruised elbow, a lacerated hand - from trying to open the cap on a cologne bottle - and a line drive that smacked his thumb.

And that was only spring training.

Anderson also had a strained back and groin after the regular season began. "And heaped on top of that was plenty of ineffectiveness," he said.

This is the same guy who once pressed a hot iron against the side of his face because he wasn't sure it had heated up. Last season, Anderson locked himself out of his hotel room while not wearing any clothes. But he's been a model of consistency and stability in the postseason, winning both decisions and posting a 2.22 ERA in 10 career appearances before last night.

"I knew it was going to be a tough draw with Roger out there," he said. "You knew being down, two games to nothing, that you were going to get his best and the team's best."

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