Clemens can't get mitt on milestone

May 27, 2003|By BEN WALKER

NEW YORK - The "300" patch on Roger Clemens' glove turned out to be a little premature.

No celebration at Yankee Stadium on Monday. In fact, things started going badly for the Rocket even before his first fastball.

Clemens' initial bid at the milestone victory became a bust when the Boston Red Sox banged him around, beating the Yankees 8-4 and sending New York to its eighth straight home loss.

"I'm going to get there eventually - I hope," Clemens said.

"It was just great that I had the opportunity," he said. "It couldn't have worked out any better, except for the loss."


Bad omens surrounded Clemens from the beginning.

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 42 minutes by rain, and Clemens' routine was further disrupted right after his final warmup. That's when Red Sox manager Grady Little walked out to question Clemens' glove.

Clemens was wearing a new glove with a shiny "300" logo on the back of it, and plate umpire Bill Miller agreed with Little that it was not within regulations. Clemens had to toss aside that mitt while another one was brought from the dugout.

"It wasn't a big deal," Clemens said.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said Clemens even expected the new glove to be challenged. But Torre found it a bit strange that the patch had already been approved by major league baseball.

"He was ready to make the change," Torre said.

Little said he did not notice Clemens' glove right away.

"Some of our players brought it to my attention. They were watching every move the guy was making out there," he said. "So I mentioned it to the umpires."

Crew chief Joe West came in from second base for the discussion.

"Boston complained about it," West said. "Roger said it was a glove that the commissioner's office had sent to him for the occasion. The patch was embroidered on there."

"Roger didn't argue or anything, he just said he'd get another glove. He didn't want any more tension," he said.

The Red Sox tagged Clemens for eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He slowly trudged off the mound, his head down the whole way, after Todd Walker's two-run single.

Now, he'll have to wait until next weekend in Detroit - or later at Cincinnati or Wrigley Field, if necessary - in road gray to try to join 20 other pitchers with 300 career victories. The exact date of his next start is uncertain because David Wells is healing from a calf injury.

Clemens (6-3) desperately wanted to win on this afternoon. Torre gave him plenty of opportunities, letting his ace throw 133 pitches - his highest total in more than two years. Still, Clemens remained winless in his last nine starts at Yankee Stadium.

"Everything was set up. It was a perfect atmosphere," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "But we didn't show up, that's the bottom line."

Clemens' mother, Bess, came from Texas to Yankee Stadium for the first time since her son clinched the 1999 World Series. She suffers from emphysema and has had a recent bout with pneumonia, and wore a breathing tube around her face.

His kids sat in the front row of the loge level, posting "K" cards to keep track of their dad's strikeouts, and Clemens fanned nine to raise his lifetime total to 3,985.

Former Red Sox teammates Al Nipper, Rich Gedman, Bruce Hurst and Marty Barrett were among the sellout crowd of 55,093 on Memorial Day. So was former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, just a few days after his wedding.

"Yeah, it's disappointing," Torre said. "I'm sure he had everything in place with his family and everything, so that's tough. We all wanted him to do it here."

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also was present, and he couldn't have been happy as his team lost its season-high fifth in a row.

The Yankees' skid at home is their longest since they dropped 10 straight in 1986 - Clemens won once during that streak for Boston. New York has also lost 12 of 13 at Yankee Stadium for the first time in club history.

Nomar Garciaparra extended his hitting streak to 26 games and Walker drove in three runs as Boston increased its AL East lead over the Yankees to 2 1/2 games.

Tim Wakefield (5-2) got the win, but no special satisfaction out of spoiling Clemens' bid.

"Roger was a teammate of mine for two years and I respect Roger more than anybody in the game," he said.

Nolan Ryan was the last pitcher to win 300, reaching the mark in 1990 on his second try. Tom Seaver was the only one to earn No. 300 at Yankee Stadium, in 1985 for the Chicago White Sox, and Phil Niekro made it to the milestone later that season for the Yankees at Toronto.

Clemens earned his 299th victory last Wednesday night at Fenway Park, where he played from 1984-96 for the Red Sox. Getting No. 300 against his former team, however, was not to be.

After Manny Ramirez led off the second with a loud double, Clemens struggled the rest of the way. Shea Hillenbrand's RBI single made it 1-0, and Boston added two runs in the third.

Trot Nixon drew a bases-loaded walk on a close 3-2 pitch, and Clemens threw up his arms in disbelief when Miller called it a ball. Kevin Millar's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.

Walker's RBI grounder and a wild pitch put the Red Sox ahead 5-0 in the fourth. After the Yankees rallied for three runs in the fourth, Boston broke it open with three more in the sixth.

Notes: Clemens issued a bases-loaded walk for only the 15th time in his career. ... Garciaparra's hitting streak is the longest in the majors this season. His career high is 30 games in 1997.

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