In 1986, Roger Clemens won his first 14 games en route to the first of his two Cy Young Awards.
Now the three-time 20-game winner is off to another fabulous start as the major leagues' first pitcher to win four games.There's just one problem: he's nursing a heavy cold and could use a breather. He'll probably get that sometime this week, though, when Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent is expect to rule on Clemens' appeal of a five-game suspension for actions in the playoffs last October.
Shaking off his head and chest cold, Clemens extended his scoreless streak to 30 innings Tuesday night as the Boston Red Sox blanked the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 for their sixth consecutive victory and sole possession of first place in the AL East.
"I think the first time he pitched against us in Toronto he had better control, but he still pitched a great game," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said after Clemens went to 4-0 with an 0.28 earned run average.
Clemens, who has not been scored against since the Blue Jays nicked him for a run in the second inning of the 1991 opener on April 8, was not at his best, but he still had enough to pitch seven innings before giving way to Jeff Gray, who threw a perfect eighth, and Jeff Reardon, who got his fifth save in the ninth.
"I think he's throwing as hard as I've ever seen him throw," Toronto's Rance Mulliniks said. "But he's not just a fastball pitcher. He knows how to pitch."
"After the first couple of innings, I didn't throw the ball well," Clemens said. "I had to work hard and depend on my defense. I thought I could go out there and relax a little bit, but I couldn't get my legs working."
"Roger had a very tough game," Boston manager Joe Morgan said. "He wasn't feeling so hot with a bad cold like everybody else around here. He just missed on a lot of pitches and he had to work hard. He had it in the seventh when I asked him to get one final batter, Mookie Wilson."
Clemens got Wilson on a grounder to short, then retired, turning over a 2-0 lead to Gray.
In seven innings, Clemens threw 109 pitches. He needed just 20 to get through the first two innings, when he struck out four. And he left after blanking the Blue Jays on five hits. He struck out seven and walked four, three more than he had in his first three starts.
"I don't feel a whole lot different," Clemens said of his fast start. "Like tonight, though, I'm throwing as well as I have to right now. That's the key. All my games have been pretty close and there isn't much room for error with a 1-0 lead. You can't let a guy hit the ball out of the ballpark in that situation."
Wade Boggs gave Clemens a 1-0 lead when he led off the third with a 425-foot homer into the bleachers in center. It was his third home run, a club high.
Toronto rookie Denis Boucher (0-1) balked home an unearned run after a couple of errors in the sixth and Mike Greenwell hit his second homer in the seventh against reliever Jim Acker.
The Blue Jays managed to advance just one runner to third. Kelly Gruber extended his hitting streak to eight games with a double in the fourth and moved to third on two-out walks to John Olerud and Mulliniks. However, Clemens got out of the jam as Greg Myers grounded to short.
"We had our chances, but we couldn't get the big run," Gaston said. "You have to cash in on your chances, especially against a pitcher like Clemens."
The Red Sox try for a sweep of the three-game series tonight, sending left-hander Matt Young (0-0) against Toronto right-hander Dave Steib (1-2).