It was supposed to be The Kid vs. The K Wednesday night at Anaheim Stadium as the two hottest properties in the American League went head-to-head for the first time ever.
Rookie phenom Wally Joyner was facing strikeout sensation Roger Clemens, and the Big A press box was bulging at the seams. The right-field bleachers were draped with banners that read "Wally World" and "The House that Joyner Built," and 32,966--many with this matchup in mind--were in attendance.
But this time, the phenom was a flop, and the sensation was less than scintillating.
Clemens, who is known for his superb control (he had 41 strikeouts and just 2 walks in his previous three outings), walked five Angels and threw three wild pitches. But he also struck out nine and picked up his sixth straight win without a defeat as Boston rallied for three runs in the ninth to beat the Angels, 8-5.
As it turned out, Clemens had a lot more trouble with a soon-to-be-40-year-old veteran home run hitter than with the 23-year-old newcomer.
Reggie Jackson hit his 537th homer in the first inning, a two-run shot to dead center that vaulted him past Mickey Mantle into sole possession of the sixth spot on the all-time home run list. Jackson also singled in the eighth and tagged up on Doug DeCinces' fly to right, just beating the throw on a face-first slide. He eventually scored what was then the tying run.
Joyner, who had hit homers in three straight games and five of the previous six, managed just a walk in five trips to the plate, four against Clemens.
"Clemens is a great pitcher," Joyner said. "That's why he's getting all the ink, and he threw well tonight.
"After the first at-bat, when I just wanted to see how he was throwing, I think I battled him pretty well."
Here's a look at Joyner and Clemens, mano a mano :
First inning--Clemens gave Joyner a good look at his mid-90 m.p.h fastball. The first, Joyner missed; the second was inside for a ball, and the third broke his bat as he hit a weak pop-up to shortstop.
Second inning--Joyner took a fastball for a ball, fouled one off and then grounded to second base on a hit-and-run play as Dick Schofield took second.
Fifth inning--Joyner saw his first Clemens breaking ball, a curve that plate umpire Durwood Merrill appeared to call a strike. But after calling the next deliveries balls, Merrill went out to the mound to inform Clemens that the first pitch was also a ball.
Boston Manager John McNamara raced out of the dugout, showed Merrill just how he'd raised his right hand after the pitch, then kicked around a little dirt for good measure.
McNamara's histrionics didn't change the count, though, and Clemens walked Joyner on the next pitch.
Seventh inning--Clemens jumped ahead to a 1-and-2 count before Joyner fouled back a couple of pitches, one of which split open the chin of Mark Melady, a reporter for the Worcester Telegram.
It ended up being the most damage Joyner inflicted all night. Joe Sambito struck him out in the ninth.
"He's a really good-looking young hitter, though," Boston Manager John McNamara said, referring to Joyner. Mr. Clemens wasn't on the top of his game, but he hung in there."
Indeed, to the tune of 142 pitches, to be exact.
"It was a tough outing for me, but I persevered," Clemens said. "I just hung on hoping the guys would click . . . and they did."
Joyner and Clemens have done their share of clicking this year.
Together, they occupied top-four spots in 11 hitting and pitching categories going into Wednesday night's game.
Joyner led the league in RBIs (35) and homers (Minnesota's Kirby Puckett hit No. 13 Wednesday to tie him); was second in slugging percentage (.634), extra-base hits (18) and total bases (90); was third in runs scored (27), and was fourth in hits (46).
Clemens was No. 1 in the majors in strikeouts (60) and winning percentage (1.000); was second in wins (5), and was third in earned-run average (1.99).
And it's only the middle of May.