OAKLAND, OCT. 10 -- Almost lost amid the Roger Clemens-induced mayhem that was today's final game of the American League Championship Series was the fact that the Oakland Athletics took another resolute stride toward cementing their stature among the most imposing teams in baseball history.

They completed a four-game playoff sweep of the Boston Red Sox with a 3-1 victory before 49,052 at soldout Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as October ace Dave Stewart clinched a World Series berth for the third consecutive year.

He stymied the Red Sox and continued his mastery over Clemens by yielding just four hits and one run over eight innings, and the A's gave him all the support he needed with a three-run second inning.

"That's a great baseball team," Red Sox second baseman Jody Reed said. "They beat us up, down and every which way, and they're going to win another World Series next week. Nothing else that happened here today can detract from that."

Yet this rageful afternoon will be remembered as the day tightly wound Clemens snapped at the most inopportune moment and Terry Cooney broke umpiring norms by not warning a player before ejecting him.

The theatrics began after Mark McGwire's run-scoring groundout had given Oakland a 1-0 advantage in the second. Clemens walked the next batter, Willie Randolph, on a 3-1 fastball that appeared to be high and inside. But as Randolph trotted to first base and Mike Gallego approached the batter's box, Clemens stood on the mound and directed commets toward home plate umpire Cooney.

What ensued was later a matter of much debate. Clemens said he used profanity only once and never directed it at Cooney. Stewart, Gallego, Cooney and several other listeners contended otherwise.

Whatever the contents, the results of the fracas are clear: Clemens was ejected (along with reserve infielder Marty Barrett, who conducted bucket-throwing protests from the Boston dugout), and the Red Sox' last best hope was ended.

Stewart criticized Clemens afterward, saying Clemens should have used discretion in such a high-stakes game. "If you're Roger Clemens, knowing what you mean to your team, how can you let that happen?" asked Stewart, who was named the series' most valuable player after his second victory. "You can't let that happen."

Soft-tossing left-hander Tom Bolton followed Clemens to the mound and was greeted rudely. Gallego lined his fifth pitch over center fielder Ellis Burks for a double that scored McGwire and Randolph for a 3-0 lead.

And that was all Stewart needed, as the Red Sox meekly finished a series in which they hit .183 and missed tying a record for offensive futility in a four-game playoff series by one ninth-inning run.

"You hope this doesn't detract from your accomplishments," Athletics Manager Tony La Russa said. "It shouldn't. When you get right down to it, Dave Stewart was the difference in this game, not Roger Clemens or Terry Cooney."

The Athletics won their 10th straight postseason game -- the third-longest such streak of all time, two shy of the Yankees of 1927-32 -- and 12th ALCS game in their last 13. The Red Sox, meanwhile, lost their 10th postseason game in a row and their eighth consecutive ALCS game, including a four-game sweep by the A's in 1988.

And Stewart -- who improved to 5-0 in five championship series starts and became the third pitcher to win three or more pennant- or World Series-clinching starts -- beat Clemens for the eighth time in nine career meetings. Clemens occasionally has seemed obsessed with beating his longtime nemesis, and perhaps that contributed to his ejection today.

"When a guy is used to winning as much as Roger is, maybe I am a thorn in his side," Stewart said. "But I'm not a hypnotist or anything."

Clemens was pitching on three days' rest and for just the third time since he missed 25 days last month with severe tendinitis in his right shoulder. He is highly strung anyway. He bruised his hand in a clubhouse tantrum a week ago and conducted running feuds with his manager, opponents, umpires and reporters.

During his 21-6 season this year he continued to pitch with his throbbing, inflamed shoulder until he no longer could lift his arm above his head.

"I'm intense out there," he said. "Today that worked against me. My only crime is wanting to win so badly."

He hasn't beaten Stewart since 1984, and Stewart publicly taunted him Tuesday by questioning whether Clemens should pitch today and saying: "Not only am I planning to go fishing Thursday {the scheduled date for Game 5}, I am going fishing Thursday."

He made good on that promise by alternately overpowering the Red Sox with his popping fastball and baffling them with a nasty forkball he used more often than in his Game 1 victory. He faced but 29 batters to get 24 outs, retiring 10 hitters in a row between a two-out walk to Carlos Quintana in the fifth and Burks's leadoff double in the ninth.

Reed followed with an RBI single for Boston's only run -- and the first hit in 18 at-bats with men in scoring position during the series -- but Rick Honeycutt came on to preserve the victory by getting Wade Boggs to ground into a double play and Mike Greenwell to bounce out to short.

Boggs had Boston's other two hits, singles in the first and fourth innings. No Red Sox runners reached second base before the ninth, and the Boston foursome of Reed, Greenwell, Quintana and Tom Brunansky finished the playoffs three for 54.

The Athletics never added bash to their flash either, becoming the first club in 71 years to win a playoff series without a home run; 34 of their 38 hits in the the series were singles. But they were more than content to show off their versatility as they pursue their second straight World Series victory.

"I said before these playoffs started that we're going to prove we're one of the best teams ever assembled," said outfielder Jose Canseco, who left the game in the sixth inning with a bruised finger that is expected to be healed by the start of the World Series Tuesday.

"We're going to sweep our way through the playoffs and World Series, and then no one can deny our greatness. Just remember that I told you so first."