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Tempers flare as Clemens blanks Rays

9/21/2003

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- First, a fastball from Roger Clemens
sailed over Javier Valentin's head to the backstop. Then, the
Rocket's next pitch hit the Tampa Bay catcher in the arm.

Consider the score settled between the New York Yankees and
Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Well, sort of.

The Yankees beat the Devil Rays 6-0 Sunday to give Clemens his
309th career victory and move closer to clinching their sixth
straight division title.

Plunking Valentin was Clemens' response to a near brawl that New
York felt was precipitated by Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella.

"There's nothing to explain," Clemens said.

"You just try and stay in control. I don't think there's
anything wrong with playing good old fashion hardball. There's
nothing wrong with pitching inside. I think (the umpires) did the
proper thing. They warned both benches. You just have to go from
there."

The Yankees, who have won 13 of their last 15 games, are already
assured of a ninth consecutive postseason berth. They reduced their
magic number to claim another division crown to one.

Clemens (16-9) allowed four hits, struck out three and walked
one in seven innings. The victory moved him ahead of Hall of Famer
Hoss Radbourn into 17th place on the all-time list, two behind Tom
Seaver.

Alfonso Soriano hit his 34th homer and Hideki Matsui drove in a
run with his first major league triple. Aaron Boone drove in a
third run off Jeremi Gonzalez (6-10), and Ruben Sierra added a
bases-loaded triple off Travis Harper in the eighth.

The benches cleared in the middle of the fifth, adding spice to
the final game of the season between the teams.

Tempers flared after Gonzalez hit Nick Johnson with a pitch,
then exchanged words with Jorge Posada, who was brushed back before
grounding out to end the inning.

Posada said something to Gonzalez as he ran up the first base
line, and the Devil Rays pitcher chased him. Players spilled out of
both dugouts, but no punches were thrown before order was restored.

"He threw under his chin. He went over there, got away from the
plate and Lou started yelling at him. That's where the whole thing
got going," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

"We all know Lou. We all love him because Lou is Lou. But
sometimes it gets out of control. I think that's where Jorgie had a
little response to it. ... I think Lou is really frustrated. He's
had a long year. He's not used to losing a lot of games."

Posada left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.
Gonzalez said the Yankees catcher shouted at him in Spanish,
accusing him of throwing at Posada's head.

"My life is pitching inside. I've pitched inside all year and
I'm going to keep pitching inside. I'm not going to change,"
Gonzalez said, adding that New York pitchers do the same.

"Nobody says anything to them, they say it to us. They want to
play like that, we'll play like that. They think they're better
than everyone, and I'm tired of them thinking like that."

Piniella agreed.

"The Yankees like to have things their own way," the Devil
Rays manager said. "You've got to be able to pitch inside. When
they do it's fine. But when somebody else does it to them, they
don't like it."

Clemens answered with two outs in the seventh when threw an 0-1
pitch over Valentin's head. He threw inside on his next delivery,
hitting Valentin on the arm but not drawing any reaction from the
Devil Rays.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead on Matsui's RBI triple and Boone's
sacrifice fly in the second. Soriano's solo homer made it 3-0 in
third, while Sierra tripled after New York loaded the bases with no
outs in the eighth.

Soriano is 14-for-31 with three doubles, five homers and 10 RBI
on the Yankees' road trip. He homered in the opener of the
three-game series against Tampa Bay and had a two-run double in
Saturday's win.

Devil Rays pitchers have hit an AL-high 91 batters this season,
including Derek Jeter twice and Bernie Williams once before rookie
Jon Switzer was ejected in the ninth inning Saturday night.

Gonzalez allowed three runs on five hits in six innings. He
struck out three and walked two.

Game notes
The Yankees won the season series 14-5. ... In 10 seasons
in Japan, Matsui had 16 triples in 1,268 games. ... Clemens has 943
strikeouts as a Yankee. He moved ahead of Dave Righetti for 10th
place on the club's all-time list when he fanned Carl Crawford in
the first inning. ... Tampa Bay rookie Rocco Baldelli, who's
0-for-7 against Clemens with six strikeouts, had the day off. ...
The Yankees rested SS Jeter and DH Jason Giambi. ... Soriano's
homer was the just the third Gonzalez has allowed in his last 65
innings. ... Two of the four hits off Clemens were infield singles.
One struck the pitcher in the right hamstring, causing a bruise
that Clemens said won't keep him from making his next start.