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Clemens once again brilliant

Special to

Oct. 22

MIAMI -- If Wednesday's Game 4 of the World Series was the last outing of Roger Clemens' career, it certainly will be a fitting end. Clemens was truly amazing as he recovered from a terrible first inning to pitch brilliantly over the next six innings.

That first inning was a rocky one, though, and it almost ended disastrously as Clemens was likely one batter away from being pulled from the game in favor of would-you-believe Jeff Weaver?

Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens was 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA for the Yankees last season.

Yes, Weaver was warmed and ready to come into the game if Clemens hadn't retired Alex Gonzalez on a fly ball to right field to end the first. Amazingly, Weaver did enter the game and, as would sum up his terrible season, allowed a game-winning solo home run to Gonzalez in the bottom of the 12th.

But Weaver's failure doesn't in the least take away from Clemens' incredible outing.

Beginning with Gonzalez' fly out, Clemens retired 19 of the final 22 batters he faced. And what he did to get back on track was to better command his fastball, which he was consistently hitting at 95 mph on the radar gun.

It was an effort befitting a future Hall-of-Famer. And if this was Clemens' last outing it's also ideal that his last pitch was a strikeout -- a called third strike to Luis Castillo to end the seventh inning.

This game defined Clemens' career -- he's always been a command, fastball pitcher, and that's exactly what he was after that adventurous first inning. He was baffling hitters more and more as the game went on and reached his best by the time he was taken out in the eighth.

On a personal note I must say that I saw Clemens throw his first pitch in the major leagues for the Red Sox back in 1984 and I saw him throw his last pitch here in 2003. Unbelievable stuff.

And what made Wednesday's game even more amazing is that Carl Pavano was the pitcher opposing Clemens. Growing up in Southington, Conn., Pavano idolized Clemens. Who would have thought he would pitch the biggest game of his career against his boyhood idol and do it in the World Series? That's unbelievable stuff, as well.

Pavano was incredible in this game, and next to Josh Beckett has been the Marlins' best pitcher in the postseason. The key to his success Wednesday was his ability to throw his fastball under the hands of the Yankees' left-handed batters. He kept the Yanks guessing all game, as along with his fastball he mixed in a superb slider and splitter.

This pitching matchup and game as a whole will no doubt be looked at as one of the more amazing World Series games ever played. Add in the fact this game ended on a walk-off home run by Gonzalez, and it's easy to see this night was truly something special.

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