SERIES: Division Series, Game 3; tied, 1-1.
Every time Roger Clemens takes the mound this postseason, he knows it may very well be his final major league start.
“I haven’t thought of it that way,” Clemens said Friday, referring to his potential career finale.
“Today is a day of planning and getting things in order for me. I haven’t really reflected on that. I always think positive, so I’m going to think that we are going to win, but I know at some point this season, it will be. But hopefully it’s not (Saturday).”
Clemens, who reached the 300-win and 4,000-strikeout plateaus during his 20th and final season in the majors, hardly looked like a 41-year-old in posting an impressive 17-9 mark with a 3.91 ERA.
The hard-throwing right-hander won his final four regular-season outings, yielding two runs or fewer in each start to boost his career win total to 310— just one shy of Hall of Famer Tom Seaver for 16th place on the all-time list.
“He is a remarkable human being and I really feel fortunate to have managed him,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Clemens. “I hated him when he pitched against me, but he’s certainly—there’s a lot of little boy in him that really, I think, helps everybody around him.
“Everybody who feels a little tired or a little old can look at Roger Clemens and see how enthusiastic he is.”
Andy Pettitte got the Yankees even in the series with a masterful seven-inning performance in Thursday’s 4-1 victory in the Bronx. Now, the pressure falls on Clemens to get New York a much-needed win in the noisy Metrodome, where fly balls disappear into the backdrop of a pale gray roof and the crowd noise reaches earsplitting decibel levels.
“The Rocket” is 7-5 with an impressive 2.78 ERA and two complete games in 15 career starts at the Metrodome. In his lone appearance at Minnesota this year, Clemens surrendered one run and five hits over six innings in an 11-4 win on April 18.
Down a game after Tuesday’s sloppy 3-1 loss, the Yankees appeared to be teetering on the brink of disaster in a tight 1-1 game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. But Alfonso Soriano’s go-ahead run-scoring single off Latroy Hawkins was followed by a two-run single by Jason Giambi, giving New York the cushion it needed as Mariano Rivera closed things out with two perfect innings of relief.
“I guess I went from zero to hero real quick,” said Giambi, who had two hits in Game 2 after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Tuesday. “That’s the great thing about this game.”
After two tense games at historic Yankee Stadium, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is hoping the hanky-waving fans in Minnesota can give his club a decided edge in Games 3 and 4.
“It’s just the Dome,” Gardenhire said. “When people start waiving those homer hankies, it gets pretty exciting. This place can be really loud. Foul balls, the ball goes up, hits off a speaker … I guess that’s why it can be entertaining at times.
“It’s going to get rocking. If we can get some excitement early, it’s going to be one of those things where you might have a headache before you leave. That’s how loud it is.”
Gardenhire sends right-hander Kyle Lohse to the mound to oppose Clemens. Lohse, who will be celebrating his 25th birthday Saturday, admitted Clemens’ style influenced him on his way to the majors.
“I’ve looked up to him, and Nolan Ryan, of course, being two of the most prolific power pitchers,” Lohse said. “Going up against (Clemens) tomorrow, I know we are not going to get much, so I just got to go in there and try not to give up as many runs.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Yankees - AL East champions. Twins - AL Central champions.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Yankees - 2B Soriano (.290, 38, 91, 114 runs, 35 steals, 130 Ks), SS Derek Jeter (.324, 10, 52), 1B Giambi (.250, 41, 107, 129 BBs, 140 Ks), CF Bernie Williams (.263, 15, 64), C Jorge Posada (.281, 30, 101), LF Hideki Matsui (.287, 16, 106, 42 doubles), 3B Aaron Boone (.254, 6, 31, 8 steals), DH Nick Johnson (.284, 14, 47, 70 BBs in 96 games); RF Karim Garcia (.262, 11, 35) or Juan Rivera (.266, 7, 26 in 57 games). Twins - Shannon Stewart (.307 avg., 13 HRs, 73 RBIs, 44 doubles), 2B Luis Rivas (.259, 8, 43, 17 steals), 1B Doug Mientkiewicz (.300, 11, 65), DH Matthew LeCroy (.287, 17, 64), RF Jacque Jones (.304, 16, 69), CF Torii Hunter (.250, 26, 102), 3B Corey Koskie (.292, 14, 69), C A.J. Pierzynski (.312, 11, 74), SS Cristian Guzman (.268, 3, 53, 14 triples).
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (17-9, 3.91). Clemens boasted a 10-2 mark with a 2.53 ERA in 15 road starts this year.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Lohse (14-11, 4.61 ERA). Lohse was a major factor in Minnesota’s stretch run to the Central title, winning eight of his last 10 decisions after Aug. 1. He is 0-3 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against New York. Lohse was 6-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 14 home starts this year.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - The Yankees went to Anaheim with a 1-1 series tie in the ALDS last year, but lost both games at Edison Field. … RHP Rivera posted his 26th career postseason save in Game 2. It was his first two-inning playoff save since Game 3 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona. … OF Williams is 4-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs against RHP Lohse. Twins - Minnesota split two games at the Metrodome against the Athletics in last year’s ALDS, but won a decisive Game 5 in Oakland. … 3B Koskie is 1-for-17 (.059) career against RHP Clemens. … None of the current Twins has ever homered off Clemens.
REGULAR SEASON ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 51-29 on road. Twins - 48-33 at home.