- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001


NEW YORK On most given nights, Roger Clemens is tough enough for any major league player to hit. Then there are the nights in which the five-time Cy Young Award winner is virtually impossible.

The Baltimore Orioles have experienced the tough Clemens on countless occasions over his 18-year Hall of Fame career. Last night, they got a taste of the impossible Clemens.

Overpowering everyone the Orioles sent up to the plate, the New York Yankees starter tossed eight shutout innings before giving way to closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, who shut the door on a 4-0 victory before 30,786 at Yankee Stadium.

Two days ago, Baltimore was on the verge of passing the litmus test manager Mike Hargrove reluctantly admitted this nine-game road trip to Seattle, Oakland and the Bronx constituted. A pair of losses to the Yankees Wednesday's 7-4 heartbreaker and last night's shutout however, left the Orioles a disappointing 3-6 and four games under .500 as they return to Camden Yards to open interleague play with the Montreal Expos tonight.

Clemens dwarfed everyone on the field last night, from Preakness winning jockey Jorge Chavez, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, to Orioles starter Sidney Ponson, a husky man in his own right.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner, who won for the 267th time in his career (one behind Baltimore great Jim Palmer for 29th on the all-time list), struck out the side in the top of the first and went on to punch out at least one batter in his first seven innings.

With his 10th and final strikeout of the night in the top of the seventh, Clemens (7-1) tied Sandy Koufax for third on the all-time list with 97 double-digit strikeout games. Only Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson have more.

Orioles veterans Brady Anderson and Delino DeShields, who respectively held career .288 and .364 batting averages against the Rocket, were thoroughly dumbfounded after striking out three times apiece two each on outside fastballs that appeared well off the plate but were called strikes by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.

Kellogg heard it twice from Anderson, with the Baltimore left fielder having to be restrained once by manager Mike Hargrove and once by first base coach Eddie Murray.

The only Orioles player who managed anything against Clemens through the first six innings was center fielder Melvin Mora, who doubled down the third-base line in the third and singled to right in the fifth. Mora was left stranded on base both times, though, when Clemens struck out DeShields and got Jerry Hairston to pop up.

Other than Mora, the only Orioles to reach base for six innings were Jeff Conine, who walked twice, and Chris Richard, who reached on a throwing error by second baseman Alfonso Soriano.

Baltimore threatened in the seventh when David Segui doubled down the line in left field, then moved to third on a wild pitch. But Melvin Mora got jammed by a Clemens fastball and fouled out weakly to third base, and DeShields was caught looking at another outside fastball.

Ponson (3-4) endured what has become a typical evening for the 24-year-old with so much promise. He kept the Yankees off-balance through most of the game but was tagged for three runs in the second inning on five straight hits.

Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius all singled with one out the last a high-hopper over Conine at third base that scored Martinez. Catcher Todd Greene, getting his second straight start after homering Wednesday, rapped a two-run double to the left-center field gap that gave New York a 3-0 lead.

Ponson was effective the rest of the night, giving up one more run in the eighth, on Greene's RBI double. He finished the night having given up four runs and 12 hits in a complete-game, eight-inning effort.

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