The Baltimore Orioles this afternoon saluted Roger Clemens as a pitcher with a laser-beam fastball and poise to match, a 23-year-old performer who could be one of his game's best for the next decade.
Clemens and the Boston Red Sox beat the Orioles, 7-2, as the largest Fenway Park crowd in eight years (35,707) watched him run his record to 13-0.
In allowing six singles in eight innings, Clemens became the seventh pitcher in history to reach 13-0, the last being Ron Guidry of the 1978 New York Yankees.
What the Orioles also saw, though, was a loss that didn't have to be. Two wild pitches cost them five runs, ruining what probably was starter Ken Dixon's best performance of the season.
Asked about Clemens, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said, "What about Dixon? I happen to think he out-pitched him, and Clemens pitched pretty well. Isn't this game something? A wild pitch will usually cost you a run or two, but today, it was five runs."
Four of them came in the first inning when the Red Sox had two runners on base and two outs. Dixon had Don Baylor struck out on a nasty outside curveball. Too nasty, in fact. The ball sailed past Baylor's swinging bat and catcher Rick Dempsey, all the way to the backstop.
Ed Romero, who had singled, scored from third; Bill Buckner, who also had singled, went to third, and Baylor reached first.
Two pitches later, Dwight Evans reached down and swatted a low fastball onto the screen above The Green Monster for a three-run homer, and just when the Orioles thought they should be out of an inning, they found themselves trailing, 4-0.
"If you look at the replay, it looked like he Dempsey wasn't expecting that pitch," Dixon said. "But he knew what was coming."
Dempsey said, "I'd just set up inside, and he threw the ball outside. Kenny had no way of seeing that I'd just moved inside."
It happened again, in the bottom of the fourth after the Orioles had scored in the top of the inning to make it 4-1. Dixon gave Baylor a leadoff walk, and with Baylor running and Tony Armas batting, he threw another pitch to the backstop. Baylor went all the way to third and scored on Rich Gedman's sacrifice fly to center to make it 5-1.
So, when the game ended, the Orioles were impressed with Clemens and his 94 mph fastball, but not with themselves. The loss was their 10th in 13 games and dropped them back to eight games out of first in the American League East, which is led by Boston.
"When you go into a game against him, you've got to win with three runs," Weaver said. "You're just not going to get many more than three."
As Clemens ticked off one more victory, he continued to flirt with baseball history. At 13-0, he matched the starts of Guidry and Brooks Lawrence of the Reds in 1956.
Now, the only pitchers who have had better ones are: 19-0 Rube Marquard of the New York Giants (1912), 17-0 Elroy Face of the Pittsburgh Pirates (1959), 15-0 Johnny Allen of the Cleveland Indians (1937) and 15-0 Dave McNally of the Orioles (1969).
Clemens is a year removed from shoulder surgery and was hit so hard in spring training the Red Sox privately wondered if his 94 mph fastball was gone forever. Now, they're certain, his recovery is complete, and the Red Sox are 26-7 in games started by Clemens and Oil Can Boyd.
Clemens struck out only six today, but he walked only three, the 11th time in 14 starts he has walked three or fewer.
"When you take someone with that kind of stuff and give him that kind of control, it's a great combination," Cal Ripken said. "To me, the control is the key."
The Orioles had more than a few chances off him. Trailing, 4-0, they got their first two runners on base in the fourth when Juan Beniquez walked and Jim Dwyer singled. Eddie Murray lined out to shortstop Rey Quinones, but Ripken singled to left to score Beniquez.
Larry Sheets followed with a line-drive single to right, and Dwyer, thinking second baseman Marty Barrett had caught the ball, stopped at third to load the bases.
Still, they had the bases loaded and one out. Clemens struck out Mike Young "on a good curveball, right on the corner," Clemens said. He then got Juan Bonilla to hit a soft grounder to Barrett to end the inning.
In the seventh, they had another chance when Bonilla beat out an infield single with one out. Dempsey struck out, but Tom O'Malley walked, and Beniquez dumped a single into center to score Bonilla. That was it. Clemens finished the seventh and eighth, and reliever Bob Stanley got the Orioles in order in the ninth.
"I didn't know what to throw some of these guys after seeing what they did Friday night score 14 runs and collect 20 hits ," Clemens said. "I just had to try my best stuff. I got emotional a few times, and I tried to overthrow the ball a few times. But that's going to happen."
He said he told Manager John McNamara he was tired at the end, thinking honesty was the better part of valor.
"I've tried to be honest each time out this season," he said. "I don't like to be taken out of a game, but if I can't help the team I don't want to be out there."
After wild pitches helped the Red Sox to five runs, they didn't need much more, and didn't get it. Dixon allowed five hits and six runs in 7 1/3 innings and was pulled after Buckner doubled and Jim Rice flied out to deep center to start the eighth.
Reliever Nate Snell hit Baylor with a pitch, and Evans scored Buckner with a single to center. Baylor went to third and scored on Steve Lyons' sacrifice fly to center to make it 7-2.
"It's tough against a guy like this," Dempsey said. "He reminded me of the young Jim Palmer with that fastball that comes in and rises. He's very good."
Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder today and will be unable to pitch for a couple of days.
The shoulder has gotten progressively more sore for the last week, and he had it examined today by Dr. Arthur Pappas, the team physician of the Red Sox.