NEW YORK — In this season of home runs, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens hooked up in a throwback game, a classic pitchers’ battle that had the look and feel of October instead of May.
Never mind that Sunday night’s game was settled by a long ball — Trot Nixon’s two-out, two run homer in the ninth giving Boston a 2-0 victory. This was an old-time duel between a couple of Cy Young winners matching zeroes, pitching the way it used to be before baseball turned into longball.
Certainly the managers appreciated it.
“I respect what those two did as a baseball person,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “It certainly was a heavyweight fight. It lived up to everything it was supposed to.”
Boston manager Jimy Williams echoed Torre.
“If you love baseball, you’ve got to love that game from both sides, especially in this era of the home run,” he said. “Those two guys like that, a full house, national television.”
This was the game Clemens and Martinez were supposed to have in the American League playoffs last season. Clemens was drilled in that game, knocked out early in a 13-1 Boston victory that turned out to be New York’s only loss of the postseason.
So on Sunday, when he and Martinez met again and this time they delivered what had been promised last October, matching three-hitters into the ninth inning of a scoreless duel.
“You want to go more than two or three innings like last time,” Clemens said. “It was a good game as opposed to a 12-10 game. You don’t want to be in those.”
Torre thought the disappointment of last October would fuel Clemens against Martinez this time.
“He came out knowing the challenge, knowing what happened last time,” the manager said. “It’s interesting. One had a man on second base with none out, the other a man on third with one out. That’s where these guys shine.”
Clemens and Martinez escaped those jams and sailed into the ninth still scoreless with matching three-hitters.
With two outs, Jeff Frye hit a ball back up the middle. It hit first off Clemens’ glove, then his stomach as Frye beat out the infield hit.
That brought up Nixon, who had tripled in the seventh. This time he caught a high fastball from Clemens into the right-field bleachers.
“He had all his pitches,” Nixon said. “Fast ball, breaking ball, split finger. It was a mistake pitch. He knows it. I know it.”
It was a mistake Martinez (8-2) did not want to repeat.
He had retired 10 straight hitters going into the ninth. But he hit Chuck Knoblauch leading off and then Derek Jeter followed with his third hit.
Martinez admitted he was running on fumes.
“I felt a little exhausted,” he said. “My chest was hurting a little bit and I was coughing a lot. I tried to crank it up a little.”
He struck out Paul O’Neill for his ninth strikeout but then Bernie Williams sent Nixon to the running track in right field for his long fly ball. The Yankees thought it might be going out but Martinez wasn’t worried.
“I knew he didn’t hit it good enough,” he said.
“I jumped out of my seat,” Torre said. “I thought he pulled it enough.”
Now with two out, Martinez hit Jorge Posada to load the bases. But, with the tying runs in scoring position, Tino Martinez bounced out, ending it.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t do what Roger did,” Martinez said. “He made a mistake that cost him the game, one little mistake. I hit two guys ahead on the count because I didn’t want to make that mistake. I wanted to hit my spots.”
For his part, Clemens enjoyed the duel with the Cy Young winner.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “The intensity was every bit what it was supposed to be. It was a fun game.”