Sox left a bit short
Clement can't keep up with Johnson, NY
Randy Johnson is making $16.5 million this season, but his actual cost to the Yankees is approximately $32 million -- his base pay plus the $9 million the Yankees sent to Arizona in the deal to obtain him, plus the estimated $6.5 million he'll cost the team in luxury tax money.
That's about $900,000 per start, an investment the Yankees made, in part, to beat the Red Sox. And in four starts against Boston this season, Johnson is 3-0, his most recent ''W" yesterday in a 7-4 Yankee victory that again pulled the Bombers within 1 1/2 games of the AL East lead.
''He's one of the best pitchers in the game," Jason Varitek said. ''He changed the tilt on his fastball, dropped down a little on his sinker."
That helped Johnson to 10 strikeouts -- only his second 10-K game of the season after 13 last year -- but there is a maddening reality to Johnson's unblemished record against the Sox: He hasn't been all that good.
He allowed eight hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings yesterday, was taken out of the park twice (by Mark Bellhorn and Manny Ramirez), and has surrendered six homers and 27 hits in just 25 1/3 innings against the Sox.
But that was all footnote material yesterday, because Matt Clement's outing lasted just 2 2/3 innings, his briefest start all season. Terry Francona had no choice but to remove Clement, who threw 17 pitches in the first inning, 26 in the second, and 40 in the third, his 83d and final pitch a two-run Wall double by No. 9 hitter John Flaherty that vaulted the Yankees to a 5-0 lead.
''I couldn't get Flaherty in the end when my manager stuck with me with his confidence," Clement lamented.
The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate in the inning, which began innocuously with Clement retiring Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. But the next seven Yankees reached against Clement, who seemed to come unglued after he lost control of a 90-mile-per-hour cut fastball that breezed behind Gary Sheffield.
''We didn't try to do that," Varitek said. ''I don't care how well you're swinging, and he's swinging the bat well."
Sheffield (four doubles and a homer in this series) blistered Clement's next offering, a 91-m.p.h. fastball, high off the Wall. Alex Rodriguez turned on Clement's next pitch -- same type, same velocity -- and hammered it into the fourth row of the Monster seats. Rodriguez and Sheffield shared a boisterous high-five at home plate.
''We hadn't been able to do a lot with him up until Sheff hit a rocket and Alex did, when things seemed to open up," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. ''He seemed to be rushing a little bit after that."
An unnerved Clement walked Hideki Matsui on a full count and Jason Giambi on five pitches before allowing a Bernie Williams single, then walked Tino Martinez on five pitches. Visits by Varitek and pitching coach Dave Wallace weren't helping, as fatigue and asthma (''I definitely keep that in the back of my mind," Varitek said) got the better of Clement.
Then Flaherty delivered his crushing blow, ripping an 81-m.p.h. slider -- one Clement threw to the right spot but with little oomph and no bite -- off the Monster, ending Clement's day. He was charged with a sixth run when Jeter greeted reliever Jeremi Gonzalez (3 1/3 innings, one run) with an RBI single.
Clement has been the Sox' most consistent starter this season, but not without an occasional implosion. Among his 19 starts, he's now had three duds: April 26 vs. Baltimore (4 2/3 IP, seven runs), June 7 at St. Louis (4 IP, seven runs), and yesterday (2 2/3 IP, six runs). In those three starts, he's 0-2 with a 15.89 ERA. In his other 16 starts, he's 10-1 with a 2.99 ERA.
The Sox chipped away, on Bellhorn's solo homer in the third (6-1 New York), Ramirez's leadoff homer in the fourth (6-2 New York), and Ramirez's RBI double and Kevin Millar's RBI single in the fifth (6-4 New York).
But a chaotic scene on the basepaths in the fourth cost the Sox.
Bill Mueller singled up the middle with Doug Mirabelli on first and Millar on second. With one out, third base coach Dale Sveum held up Millar. But Mirabelli, assuming Millar would score on the slow chopper into center, barreled around second and didn't lift his head until he was halfway to third base.
Mirabelli was retired on an 8-5-6 putout -- Williams to Rodriguez to Jeter.
''I thought Millar would score easily, and I put my head down," Mirabelli said. ''I picked my head up too late."
''That was just a base-running mistake on Doug Mirabelli," Millar said.
Instead of bases loaded with one out for Bellhorn, the Sox had men on the corners with two outs. Bellhorn was overwhelmed by a Johnson fastball, whiffing and touching off resounding boos. Bellhorn fanned twice -- before Francona pinch hit John Olerud for him for the second time in three days -- elevating his season total to 108.
David Ortiz appeared to have pulled the Sox within 6-5 the next inning, when he clubbed a Johnson offering about 417 feet, or 3 feet shy of the 420 sign in right-center. Williams hauled in the long out.
The Yankees scored once more in the seventh, when Gonzalez walked Rodriguez and was lifted for Alan Embree, who balked A-Rod to second. Matsui then hit a grounder to Ortiz, who botched it for an error, allowing A-Rod to score.
And, for the second time this series, Mariano Rivera worked a 1-2-3 ninth, showing that his two blown saves vs. the Sox (April 5 and 6) were nothing more than an early-season aberration.
''His fastball is harder, he's spotting it, and throwing with more confidence," said Johnny Damon, who shattered two bats in a two-pitch at-bat that ended with a line out.
''Right now is a time we can't let the game get to him because he's lights-out."