Clemens, meanwhile, couldn’t throw anything but his fastball for strikes by the sixth inning. Pedroia flew out on the third straight heater, but Ortiz didn’t bother chasing some bad sliders and walked, and Lowell simply waited for a fastball, then singled to right. Then the normally patient Drew picked the very worst time to swing at the first pitch, with men on against a tired pitcher with control issues, and grounded into a force at second. As Chamberlain warmed in the bullpen, Clemens got his last bit of good fortune on a 1-1 slider he left up and in the middle of the plate. Varitek flew out.
Clemens has succeeded, but not without struggling throughout for command. Part of it may have been the 13-day layoff. But the extra juice on his fastball was probably also a result of his extra rest. If the velocity stays while the command returns in his next two starts, the Yankees have the Rocket back. But if the velocity returns to his 2007 norm of 90-91 for the fastball, and he has no other pitches he can locate, the Clemens that has struggled since the All Star break could be problematic in an ALDS start.
Schilling’s ultimate moment came in far more humiliating fashion, of course. He started the eighth by falling behind Cabrera 3-1, before reaching back for a 92 MPH fastball in, followed by his splitter to get strikeout number two on the night.
But that something extra he reached for was near the last of his reserves. In the next at bat, Mientkiewicz lined an 0-1 half-fastball, half-changeup (84 MPH) into left for his second hit of the night (making Joe Torre look like a genius for employing a first baseman now hitting .235), and Jason Giambi reached up for a 92 MPH fastball and smashed it off the top of the Green Monster.
Schilling came back to jam Johnny Damon, getting a first-pitch groundout.
That brought Derek Jeter to the plate. Schilling started him with another perfectly-placed pitch, an 86-MPH fastball just off the outside corner, getting Jeter to swing and miss. Briefly, a flash of old Schilling reappeared with a 94-MPH fastball, his hottest of the game. But this time, location, rather than speed, showed Schilling’s age—it fell harmlessly into the catcher’s glove, well outside, as did the following pitch at 93.
That was about all Schilling had left. Jeter timed an 84-MPH fastball on the outside corner, an 85-MPH on the inside corner, then when Schilling tried to get him upstairs, without the necessary oomph, Jeter launched his pitch deep into the Green Monster seats.
The Yankees led 4-1, Schilling’s night was over, and both Boston and New York had to be asking questions about what their once-great pitchers will have left for the postseason.
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