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Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Updated: July 27, 8:59 AM ET
Crawford's line drive strikes Clement in third

Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The blistering line drive caromed off the side of Matt Clement's head, knocking the Boston pitcher off his feet and silencing the stunned crowd at Tropicana Field.

Matt Clement
Matt Clement is apparently determined to make his next start despite Tuesday's scary line drive to the head.

Frightened teammates gathered around the fallen player while medical personnel attended to the All-Star right-hander, and were relieved when they reached the mound to find him conscious, alert and talking.

"For him to go down, especially in that type of fashion, that shook everybody up. Both teams, and the fans," Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said. "But we hear he's doing OK."

Clement was carted from the field and taken to a hospital near Tropicana Field after Carl Crawford's liner struck him in the right side of the head, just behind the ear, in the third inning of a game the Red Sox went on to win 10-9 in 10 innings.

Damon made a game-saving catch to end the ninth, then hit a home run on the first pitch of the 10th to put Boston ahead for good. The victory enabled the Red Sox to hold onto first place in the AL East, but none of that really mattered in the winning clubhouse.

"Nothing was easy. We came out with a win. I think the guys gave more than they had," manager Terry Francona said.

Still, the focus was on Clement, who Boston signed to a $25.5 million, three-year contract as a free agent last offseason to help replace Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe.

"I was very relieved when he was coherent and speaking," Francona said. "He seems to be aware of his surroundings, things like that."

Clement could be seen blinking his eyes when he was lifted off the ground and strapped onto the stretcher, and Boston medical director Dr. Thomas Gill later issued a statement saying a CT scan was negative.

"I have spoken with Matt and his doctors in Florida," Gill said. "Matt himself never lost consciousness and is in good spirits. ... He appears to be doing well, but will stay in the hospital for precautionary purposes and will be re-evaluated in the morning."

Francona planned to visit Clement in the hospital.

"I talked to his wife. The medical people have talked to her, and he's talked to her," Francona said. "He's OK. All the tests came back [negative]. He'll be re-examined. ... Hopefully everything will be OK, and he can go home with us."

After he was hit, Clement remained on the ground and barely moved for about five minutes before he was lifted onto the stretcher and immobilized with a neck brace. Replays showed the force of Crawford's liner knocked the pitcher completely off his feet.

The crowd of 24,029 -- the majority red-clad Boston fans -- stood and cheered as he was carted off through a tunnel behind home plate.

"You just never want to see anybody in that kind of situation," Crawford said. ""They gave me the medical report. ... I'm just glad he's OK."

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella was relieved, too.

"That's the best thing about this ballgame," Piniella said. "We were concerned that the way he got hit, as flush as he got hit, that there would be some problems."

Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon homered for the Red Sox, who snapped an 8-8 tie on Damon's solo shot on the first pitch of the 10th. Varitek added an RBI double off Danys Baez (5-3) to give Curt Schilling (3-4) a two-run lead.

The Devil Rays scored on Travis Lee's RBI double in the bottom of the 10th, but Schilling held on for his second victory as a reliever since returning to the Red Sox after missing two months with an ankle injury.

Boston's Trot Nixon left the game in the third after straining a muscle in his left side swinging at a pitch. He was in the trainer's room when Clement went down, and immediately thought of another scary injury to a Red Sox pitcher.

Five years ago, Bryce Florie was hit in the right eye by a ball hit by Ryan Thompson of the New York Yankees. The line drive broke several bones in Florie's face and left his vision impaired.

The right-hander tried to come back with Boston the next season but didn't last long and was out of the major leagues by the end of the season. He has not been back since.

"I always think back to Bryce," Nixon said. "Obviously any pitcher or position player who has had that happen, these balls come off these bats so fast. You don't have time to react to it."