Clemens puts Avengers on verge of title with Game 4 win
COOK COUNTY -- Game 4 wasn't just a rematch of Game 1 starters Roger Clemens and John Patterson, it was nearly identical from start to finish. Clemens again threw a complete game and the Avengers again beat the Maulers by an identical 5-2 score.
Clemens had the Maulers on their heels all afternoon, collecting ten strikeouts against only two walks. He did allow eight base hits, but the Maulers rarely strung baserunners together and struck out too often to move runners along with productive outs.
"I pretty much threw fastballs, but I tried to move them
around, in and out," said Clemens after the game. When asked
about his heavy postseason workload, Clemens said, "Hey, I've been
doing this a long time, so 115 pitches isn't a problem anymore."
Patterson had his great curveball working, holding Metropolis
to four hits as he worked into the sixth inning. Unfortunately, he
didn't always know where that curve was headed, as he was hurt by three
walks and a hanging curveball that Eric Chavez hit for a solo homer in
"Yeah, it kind of floated, I guess. He still had to put a good swing on it, though," said Patterson of the Chavez homer.
Cook County quickly tied the game in their half of the third.
Andruw Jones greeted Clemens with a triple to the right field corner on
the first pitch of the inning. Two pitches later, the game was tied,
compliments of a Chipper Jones sacrifice fly to center.
Not wanting Cook County to get too comfortable, the top of the Metropolis order combined for two more runs compliments of a little small ball in the fourth inning. Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal forced a one out walk and then stole second easily. Brian Roberts, found himself in an 0-2 hole after taking two hittable pitches to allow Furcal to steal the base. Roberts still got a pitch to hit, depositing a fastball into shallow left field for an RBI single. He quickly followed Furcal's lead, stealing second without a throw from catcher Toby Hall. Roberts tried to explain his baserunning strategy after the game, "with our lineup Raffy and I don't look to run. We don’t not look to run, either, if you know what I mean." The two combined for 57 steals on 67 attempts during the regular season and are a perfect 8-8 in the postseason.
The middle innings were fairly quiet, though Cook County did put a pair of runners on in the third and fifth innings. In the third, Johnny Damon and Tony Clark singled, but Andruw Jones hit a soft liner to Furcal to end any threat.
In the fifth, Maulers cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez came to the plate with runners on first and second with one out. One of the best hitters in Brassball history, Ramirez slugged 49 homers during the season, racking up 117 RBIs. He's been ice-cold in the World Series, though, and Clemens induced a weak ground ball to Furcal for inning-ending double play. The slow grounder was a tough ball on which to turn two, and Richie Sexson made a great scoop of Robert's throw to finish the play and end the rally.
Maulers manager Kevin Kolb retained confidence in his struggling superstar, saying, "Manny's fine. He's gonna turn it on, we all know it."
With rookie phenom Felix Hernandez warming up, Kolb sent Brandon McCarthy out to start the seventh inning. Still down 3-1, the Maulers were running out of time and needed to keep their deficit at two. McCarthy looked strong, quickly getting ahead of Wells 1-2. After three foul balls, Wells brought the count even and then pulled a 2-2 fastball down the left field line. The ball looked like it wanted to go foul, but it stayed straight as an arrow, easily clearing the fence and padding the Avenger lead.
After getting three outs on sharp line drives in the seventh, Clemens looked to be tiring. He turned on the gas to start the eighth, though, striking out Ramirez and Tony Clark on fastballs up in the strike zone. Clemens kept up the strategy with Andruw Jones, who obviously watched the prior at bats and jumped on a belt-high fastball, driving it for a long homer to straight away center field. Unfazed, Clemens through four more fastballs to Chipper Jones, who grounded out to on a check swing.
Chipper was impressed with Clemens' stamina. "He was still throwing hard. It's the eighth inning and he was in the mid-90's, for sure. Not many guys can do that."
Game 3 hero Melvin Mora led off the Avengers' ninth with a homer off Hernandez, who had relieved McCarthy. With the bottom of the Mauler lineup due in the ninth and Clemens still looking strong, some of the hometown fans started for the exits. Clemens finished off his third complete game in the playoffs by retiring Jhonny Peralta, Chase Utley, and pinch hitter Bill Hall in order.
The Avengers hand a 3-1 series lead to Game 5 starter Pedro Martinez. The Maulers counter with Game 2 star Danny Haren. Despite their 3-1 hole, Maulers right fielder Damon isn't ready to throw in the towel, "How many games did we win? More than a hundred, right? I bet we won three in a row at least once."