...and that will be the last NASA reference I use. I might have tossed my lunch if I heard the phrase "Rocket Relaunch" used one more time on YES. For one day at least, Roger Clemens' return to the Bronx was a successful one. Clemens allowed 3 runs over 6 innings, striking out 7, despite not having his best fastball. YES analyst Al Leiter speculated that the Rocket's groin injury was preventing him from pushing off the rubber with as much force as he normally would.
The Yankees won 9-3 for their 5th straight win, and 8th in the last 10 games. It also assured them of their 3rd straight series victory.
The Pirates struck immediately against Clemens, who superstitiously and traditionally rubbed his sweat on Babe Ruth's plaque after warm-ups, scoring a run in the 1st on an Adam LaRoche single. But the Yankee's offense (Michael Kay had to constantly remind us that this is NOT the Houston Astro's offense) came right back in their half of the inning.
Johnny Damon lead off with a sliced single to left. Derek Jeter ripped a double into the left field corner and the Yankees were set up for a big inning. Bobby Abreu bounced back to the mound, but A-Rod got the tying run in on an RBI ground out to third. A Jorge Posada single put the Yankees ahead and another run would come home on a Robinson Cano infield single that was originally called an error.
Clemens gave the lead back though in the 4th when he issued a 2-out walk to Ronny Paulino to put 2 men aboard. Jack Wilson then sailed a ball over Abreu's (replays showed he cut across instead of back in a diagonal pattern) head in right for a 2-run double. But the Pirates were done for the day.
Meanwhile the Yankees took the lead on a Posada sac fly in the 5th, and added to it with 2 runs in the 6th and 7th innings, and another in the 8th.
But this day was all about Clemens. He threw 108 pitches, one more than his 24-yr old counterpart Paul Maholm. He allowed 5 hits, walked 2 and struck out 7. In his post-game remarks he was content with his outing and felt he'll get stronger as the season progresses. Most of all he just glad to get the Yankees a 'W'.
Nice moment of the day - utility man Chris Basak, who has spent 7 years in the minors, came in as a pinch-runner for A-Rod and stayed in as a defensive replacement. After the game, Joe Torre gave him the lineup card.