BOSTON, SEPT. 29 -- As much as Friday night's bizarre, miraculous victory over the Toronto Blue Jays was worth to the Boston Red Sox, today meant even more -- much, much more. As the refrain went among the locals: "Ragah's back."
Even Tom Brunansky's three home runs could not steal the spotlight this afternoon from Roger Clemens, who returned from a 25-day hiatus caused by severe tendinitis in his right shoulder to predictably spectacular results. His six shutout innings and Brunansky's five RBI provided a 7-5 victory before 35,444 at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (86-72), in carving a two-game lead in the American League East, got a homer from Brunansky to hold a 1-0 advantage after five innings. They broke open the game with a five-run sixth that included Dwight Evans's two-run single and Brunansky's three-run home run.
Brunansky added a solo shot in the eighth for his first career three-homer game; he has four homers in two days during this series. Boston led, 7-0, in the ninth before a five-run Blue Jays outburst highlighted by Kelly Gruber's grand slam off reliever Dennis Lamp. Jeff Reardon got one out for his 20th save.
About 20 hours after Friday's dramatic 7-6 victory capped by Jeff Stone's bases-loaded single in a two-run ninth, the Red Sox issued an even more emphatic proclamation about who will win the division title.
A healthy Clemens is the key to Boston's fragile resolve, and he certainly appeared to be that today. He yielded four hits and two walks in 93 pitches -- the last of which was clocked at 91 mph -- to improve to 21-6 and lower his major league-best ERA to 1.93.
"He looked pretty good for a guy with a bad arm," Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston said. "Guys who are winners reach back for a little more, and that's what he did."
Clemens has won nine of his last 10 starts and is 11-2 with a 1.53 ERA in 15 outings at home -- including 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA in his past 11 turns here. He has not yielded a home run in his last 12 starts.
Boston benefited to win its fourth straight game while handing the Blue Jays their fourth consecutive loss and sixth defeat in eight games. Toronto (84-74) is 1-4 on its season-ending, nine-game road trip -- and time is running short for any more AL East twists, with four games remaining in the regular season.
The Red Sox are 10-2 this year against the Blue Jays, including 6-0 here; they began the season with a 15-game Fenway losing streak to Toronto. Boston is 29-9 against AL East teams at home. The Red Sox blew a 6 1/2-game lead earlier this month, but they seem on their way to redemption.
"I wanted to feel like part of the team again because I felt like I let them down," Clemens said. "We lost a 6 1/2-game lead, and I felt like that was my fault because I wasn't out there.
"I'm satisfied. I feel like I had an impact. . . . My velocity was good. I wanted to go seven innings, but the fatigue started to get to me in the fourth and fifth and I was really done after the sixth inning."
The past two days at Fenway were a study in baseball espionage. Despite rampant conjecture, no one -- not even Clemens -- was certain who would make the start when Manager Joe Morgan and pitching coach Bill Fischer accompanied Clemens to the bullpen 31 minutes before game time for the final test of his shoulder.
Clemens stretched briefly in center field. His first light toss sailed over catcher Tony Pena and into the Toronto bullpen, but he threw painlessly enough to go through with the return start that had been postponed twice before.
"I left a lot of good fastballs out there in the bullpen," he said. "I probably threw too hard warming up. . . . After about 10 minutes, I knew I could pitch."
Said Brunansky: "I saw him out there twitching his arm. And every time he did, I felt a little twinge in my arm too."
Clemens received a standing ovation when he returned from the bullpen to the dugout, then another when he took the mound to begin the game. It was quickly obvious that he was not the same pitcher who won eight straight starts with an 0.80 ERA before finally yielding to the throbbing in his shoulder in a Sept. 4 loss to the Oakland Athletics -- but he was not that far away from his usual form either.
"He tried to pitch a little more today," Gruber said. "He wasn't really overpowering. He wasn't going to blow people away, but he got the ball over with good velocity and had good location with his pitches."
His first pitch to leadoff batter Mookie Wilson was a ball, his second a strike. Wilson grounded out on the third. Tony Fernandez drew a walk, then Gruber worked Clemens in a 10-pitch duel before striking out on a high fastball. Clemens also struck out Fred McGriff, leaving his totals for the 12-minute half-inning at 24 pitches, 15 strikes and no runs.
Clemens walked John Olerud with one out in the second but got a double-play ground ball off the bat of catcher Greg Myers. He faced a second-and-third, one-out predicament in the third after Wilson's double, but escaped unscathed when Fernandez lined to shortstop Luis Rivera and Gruber grounded out. George Bell's one-out double was wasted during Clemens's 19-pitch fourth.
Blue Jays starter Todd Stottlemyre (13-17) briefly matched Clemens's exploits. He permitted Jody Reed's double off the Green Monster on his first pitch, but struck out the next four hitters and had six strikeouts through the first three innings.
Brunansky broke the scoreless deadlock with his 12th homer of the season, leading off the fifth. Stottlemyre left a 1-1 fastball up and over the plate, and Brunansky (at the time, one for eight career off Stottlemyre) deposited it into the net above the left field wall for a 1-0 Red Sox lead.
"It's every player's dream to help your ballclub like that," Brunansky said. "The first one was the best. The way Roger and Stottlemyre were pitching, it looked like one run could make a big difference."
Carlos Quintana and Boggs led off the Boston sixth with singles, and Stottlemyre walked Mike Greenwell one out later. Evans greeted reliever Duane Ward by grounding his single through a drawn-in infield, and Brunansky followed with another blast into the net to make it 6-0. His third home run came against Rick Luecken to put the Blue Jays' pennant hopes on the verge of extinction.
"We're not in very good shape, for sure," Gaston said. "But it's still not quite over yet."