BOSTON — The facts speak for themselves. If they don't, Dave Stewart spoke with even greater clarity.
"We don't need Roger Clemens in or out of the game to have a chance to win when I'm pitching," Stewart said Saturday night after he and his Oakland Athletics proved it again.
The A's routed the Boston Red Sox, 9-1, in Game 1 of the American League playoffs as Stewart outlasted the tiring Clemens and gave up only four hits in a characteristic eight innings.
The A's ace is 7-1 in confrontations with Clemens, 4-0 for his career in playoff competition and 23-11 overall in 1990.
"Stew was good tonight, but he's good a high percentage of the time," A's pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "It was a Dave Stewart-type game. I mean, if he was better in any one area than he normally is I guess it would be that he had exceptional control. He was able to go to either side of the plate whenever he wanted."
Said Stewart, the first pitcher since Jim Palmer (1975-78) to win 20 or more games in four consecutive seasons: "This is the way I've pitched the last four years. I had everything working. Good fastball. Hard slider. I was able to establish the inside part of the plate.
"I mean, people talk about my playoff record, but I was 5-0 in September before losing my last start, 2-0. I've pitched well for a month. I've pitched well for four years. You look around at the pitchers in the league, and who else has done what I did? Nobody but me. The thing that made this year better than the other three is that I had to work so much harder because the opposition was more geared to what I was throwing."
Perhaps, but the Red Sox are 0-4 against Stewart this year and 5-12 for his career. He gave up a fourth-inning homer by Wade Boggs, struck out three and walked one. He retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced before Dennis Eckersley pitched the ninth.
Clemens, making only his second start after going 25 days between appearances because of biceps tendinitis, worked six shutout innings. He gave up four hits before the relievers turned the game into another Boston massacre, as they almost did last Saturday when he returned from his long layoff to pitch six shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox hanging on then for a 7-5 win.
Stewart has talked about a tension when he and Clemens are in proximity, but Saturday night he said: "Each time I pitch against him I have more respect for him. I mean, for what he came into the game with tonight, I thought he was superb. I don't think he's still 100%. A healthy Clemens goes hard from the first inning to the ninth, but I still don't think he would have beaten us, 1-0. It may not have been 9-1, but I don't think it would have been 1-0."
Clemens was hurt Sept. 4 while pitching against Stewart. Some of the Red Sox believe he was overthrowing that day, obsessed with the goal of finally beating his nemesis. The Red Sox themselves seemed obsessed with winning Game 1 behind their ace. They viewed it as a win they had to have if they are going avoid a repeat of the 1988 sweep by Oakland.
"I didn't put as much emphasis on it as the Red Sox seemed to," Stewart said. "I read where they said they had to beat me to win the series. It didn't put any pressure on me, but I thought it put too much pressure on Clemens. It was as if they were saying, 'We might not be worth a darn in the next three games if Roger doesn't beat Stewart.' Heck, I was just trying to keep us in the game, pitch my normal game. I mean, I wasn't facing Roger Clemens, I was facing the Boston Red Sox hitters."
And, of course, disposing of them as he does just about all hitters.