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Twins find Roger over and out
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10/04/2003  7:58 PM ET 
Twins find Roger over and out
Rocket booster still attached to pitcher's arm
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A dejected Jacque Jones returns to the dugout after striking out Saturday. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- When pinch-hitter Michael Ryan walked to the plate with runners on first and third in the fifth inning in Game 3 of the ALDS, the rookie was feeling pretty good about his first chance to help the Twins in the playoffs.

Then he caught a glimpse of Roger Clemens.

"I looked him in the face and it sort of hit me where I was at," Ryan said. "I tried to block it out."

Ryan was caught looking at two strikes thrown by the the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer, and fouled off the third before striking out swinging on an outside pitch. It ended the inning and the brief Minnesota rally in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees.

"He threw a splitty on the second pitch and he threw me a splitty on the fourth pitch to strike me out," Ryan said. "They had two different spins on them and different speeds."

Welcome to the head scratching that comes with facing "The Rocket."

The current crew of Minnesota's hitters have been trying to figure Clemens out for a while now, mostly without success.

Center fielder Torii Hunter is 0-for-20 lifetime in regular season games. Doug Mientkiewicz is 1-for-7 and Jacque Jones is 5-for-23. No one on Minnesota's roster has ever hit a homer off Clemens, until A.J. Pierzynski slugged one in the third inning Saturday.

Add a 0-for-3 day vs. Clemens to Hunter's tally in his first postseason encounter. He won't face him again since the hard-throwing right-hander is heading into retirement after the season.

"He was very tough," said Hunter, who struck out in the fourth against Clemens with a runner on first. "Clemens went out and threw some nice split-fingered (pitches). Maybe because he thought it was his last start -- he threw a hell of a lot of split-fingers. He threw Jacque like five in a row and all the pitches to me were splitties.

"All I can say, it looked like it hurts (him) when he throws it. That's how nasty it is. You think something like that would hurt him. It doesn't -- he has a rubber arm."

Designated hitter Matthew LeCroy said Clemens offered mostly high fastballs against him.

"I couldn't get on top of it and couldn't make the adjustment," said LeCroy, who was 0-for-3 vs. Rocket. "He'll bury you if you don't make an adjustment."

Mientkiewicz picked up a fifth-inning single and went to second on an error in center field. Clemens got out of danger by retiring the side in order.

"I don't know if he had his best stuff, but he doesn't need his A-game to win games," Mientkiewicz said. "He moved the ball around. He learned a new pitch since the last time we saw him. It took us a while to get used to it. He doesn't make mistakes."

When he struck out Ryan, Clemens' competitive nature was on full display. He pumped his fist and talked to himself walking to the dugout. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was not surprised he could still bring it after nearly 20 years in the game.

"He can flat out pitch," Gardenhire said. "You see him out there huffing and puffing. He takes deep breaths. When he got into a little bit of a jam, you can see him step back and find a little extra. That's why he's been doing it for so long."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This report was not subject to the approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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