Dave Stewart's pitching held up after Roger Clemens' arm gave out and that was all the Oakland Athletics needed.
Stewart did not beat Clemens, but he again beat the Boston Red Sox, this time 9-1 Saturday night in Game 1 of the American League playoffs.A classic pitching duel fell apart the instant Clemens, tired after missing a month with tendinitis, left after six innings with a 1-0 lead. Then, the game turned into what Boston feared most - a battle of the bullpens.
"A beautiful game turned into a horrible evening," Boston manager Joe Morgan said. "But Roger was dead. It was my decision, but he knew it was time."
The Athletics, meanwhile, knew it was their time.
"It was the seventh inning and we needed to get back in the game, against anyone who was pitching," manager Tony La Russa said. "From where we sat, it looked like he might start laboring."
Oakland immediately tied it in the seventh on Rickey Henderson's sacrifice fly off Larry Andersen and went ahead in the eighth. Jose Canseco led off with a single, advanced on Harold Baines' first sacrifice bunt since 1984, stole third and scored on Carney Lansford's one-out single off Jeff Gray.
With Stewart shutting down the Red Sox on four hits through eight innings, the Athletics made it official in the ninth. They tied an AL playoff record with seven more runs against Dennis Lamp and Rob Murphy. Canseco had a sacrifice fly and Rickey Henderson added a two-run single.
Eckersley took over in the ninth, as if it was really necessary, and finished the five-hitter.
Stewart, pitching the playoff opener for the third straight year, recorded his eighth consecutive victory over the Red Sox. Six of them have come against Clemens and, even though this one didn't, it felt just as good.
"I've been real, real lucky against him," Stewart said. "But Roger didn't pick up the loss. For what he came into the game with and what he tried to do, he did great.
"A healthy Roger Clemens would probably carry that game a little farther and maybe win," Stewart said. "Fortunately for us, his shoulder wouldn't let him do it."
For Stewart, it was his sixth victory in nine postseason starts. For Clemens, the no-decision left him just 1-1 in seven playoff and World Series games.
"Things worked out pretty much the way I wanted them to," said Stewart, MVP of last year's World Series.
The heavily favored Athletics, who rudely swept Boston out of the 1988 playoffs, now send 27-game winner Bob Welch against Dana Kiecker (8-9) on Sunday night.
From the start, this looked like a great duel between the 20-game winners who like each other only a little but respect each other a lot. Neither gave up a hit until Wade Boggs homered with two outs in the Boston fourth.
By then, though, Clemens was starting to struggle. He had not pitched more than six innings since Aug. 30 - the start before he lost to Stewart and left for four weeks with tendinitis - and it showed.
Clemens needed a nice running catch by second baseman Jody Reed to end the fourth with runners on first and third, and he retired Henderson on a fly ball to finish the fifth with runners again at the corner.
In the sixth, Clemens started with six straight balls and it was apparent he was in trouble. This time, a rocket saved The Rocket when Baines lined into a double play with two runners on.
Morgan made his move to start the seventh, Clemens leaving after allowing four hits and four walks and striking out four.
The sellout crowd of 35,192 seemed to sense trouble when Andersen relieved and Mark McGwire drew a leadoff walk. After Walt Weiss grounded into a forceout, Oakland's best pinch hitter, Jamie Quirk, singled Weiss to third. Henderson's fly ball tied it, with Weiss sliding in safely when center fielder Ellis Burks' throw home hit him.
Clemens set the tone early, opening with five straight strikes and setting down the first three Oakland batters on just eight pitches. Stewart came right back and retired the Red Sox on 10 pitches, fanning Boggs to end the inning.