Final, Red Sox 3-1: It’s still really weird that Clemens’ 20-strikeout game didn’t end with a strikeout, but Ken Phelps’ groundout to short ended the game. However, that came after Clemens struck out Spike Owen and Phil Bradley (for the fourth time) to set the new record.
Clemens, of course, was only getting started. He finished the season with a 24-4 record and a 2.48 ERA to go along with 238 strikeouts (Remarkably, Clemens didn’t lead the league in strikeouts — California’s Mark Langston did). Clemens also went on to win both the Cy Young award and the MVP.
End 8th, Red Sox 3-1: The Red Sox couldn’t add insurance in the eighth, as Mariners manager Chuck Cottier made two pitching changes to keep the Red Sox right where they were. The final line on Mike Moore: 7 1/3 innings, eight hits, three runs and one very big instance of “tough luck loser.”
We’ve got time for one more commercial.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 3-1: It’s pretty remarkable how strong Clemens stayed throughout the game. This was before the time of radar guns being incorporated into broadcasts, but it sure looks like Clemens was bringing the same amount of heat late in the game that he did in the early innings. At least that’s certainly the way it looked, judging by the Mariners’ swings.
Dave Henderson had a particularly rough game, striking out three times. Luckily for him, he’d be on Clemens’ side by the end of the season. Henderson and Spike Owen were traded to Boston at the trade deadline, and both players played big roles in winning the pennant, especially Henderson, whose home run in Game 5 of the ALCS is one of the more famous home runs in the last 50 years.
With two more K’s in the eighth, Clemens was up to 18 through eight.
Clemens strikeout count: 18
End 7th, Red Sox 3-1: If Roger Clemens was, to borrow a hockey term, the No. 1 star, then Dwight Evans gets consideration for No. 2.
The Red Sox outfielder pretty much saved the day by hitting a three-run home run to left-center field in the bottom of the seventh off Mike Moore.
And it’s on to the eighth.
Mid 7th, Mariners 1-0: The most remarkable thing about this game isn’t that Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters. It’s that the Mariners actually produced some offense, and Seattle actually got on the board first.
That was thanks to Gorman Thomas, who came to the plate in the top of the seventh to face Clemens, who had just struck out 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. Thomas looked overmatched for the entire at-bat until he got a fastball down the middle that he could get the bat out in front of and hit a home run to center field.
In another sort of weird look-ahead to Game 6 of the World Series, Clemens supposedly started to have leg cramps after the sixth inning. Unlike the World Series — where he came out of the game with a supposed blister — Clemens stayed in to finish this game.
Clemens strikeout count: 16
End 6th, 0-0: Poor Mike Moore. He pitched so well in this game, and he’s just a footnote in history.
The Red Sox almost pushed across a couple of runs in the sixth, getting runners to second and third with just one out. Moore was able to bear down, though, and get Jim Rice to ground out to shortstop before striking out Don Baylor to end the inning.
Mid 6th, 0-0: Clemens ended up striking eight Mariners in a row before allowing a flyout to Spike Owen. Looking back, it’s pretty fascinating to see how quickly the crowd got into the game. Again, there was some disappointment when Owen put the ball in play, but that gave way to pretty raucous applause when Steve Lyons ran down the flyball to deep center.
This is going to need updating soon, by the way.
Clemens strikeout count: 14
End 5th, 0-0: Imagine if the Red Sox got any offense going in this one? If they didn’t, Rich Gedman’s (unsuccessful) attempt to stretch a leadoff single into a double in the fifth inning might have hurt.
Time for another commercial break.
Mid 5th, 0-0: The work Roger Clemens did in this game, moving side to side across the plate, was phenomenal. Perhaps there was no better example of that than in the fifth inning, when he struck out the side — all looking.
Clemens obviously always was known as a power pitcher, but the thing that really stands out, especially in the fifth inning, is how well he lived on the corners. The Mariners had no chance.
Clemens strikeout count: 12
End 4th, 0-0: It wasn’t a great night for offense.
The Red Sox got a runner on with a Jim Rice broken-bat single, but the Hall of Famer was thrown out at second on the back half of a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play with Don Baylor going down on a nasty slider from Mike Moore.
Mid 4th, 0-0: A lot going on in the top of the fourth inning, including the first Seattle hit. Clemens threw a nasty curveball to Spike Owen that dropped a couple of feet, but he might have actually down Owen a favor by speeding up his bat with the breaking ball.
Clemens worked around the single, though, and struck out the side. He also worked around an error from first baseman Don Baylor on a potential foul popout from Gorman Thomas. Clemens rebounded to strike out Thomas. That error technically allowed Clemens to get to 20, which means it’s the second-most important error by a Red Sox first baseman during the 1986 season.
Clemens strikeout count: 9
End third, 0-0: The NESN broadcast team — Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery — talked about Steve Lyons’ energy. Thirty years later, that hasn’t changed.
The Red Sox got a two-out single from Dwight Evans but couldn’t do anything with it.
And now, a commercial break.
Mid third, 0-0: Poor Dave Henderson. The outfielder came into this one in a 2-for-20 slump, and Clemens just abused him. Hendu went down looking here in the third on an unfair fastball on the outside corner from Clemens.
By the way, we’re already at a point in the game where fans are bummed when Clemens doesn’t strike someone out. The Henderson punchout was Clemens’ only K of the inning.
Clemens strikeout count: 6
End second, 0-0: Don Baylor collected the game’s first hit, but he was stranded at second despite Marty Barrett’s best efforts. He hammered a pitch deep into the left-center gap, but Dave Henderson ran it down.
Mid second, 0-0: Clemens had it a little easier in the second inning. The right-hander pounded the strike zone, getting Jim Presley to wave at a curveball before painting the outside corner with an unhittable fastball to Ivan Calderon.
The Mariners did put the ball in play, as Gorman Thomas smoked a line drive to left field that Jim Rice handled.
Unrelated: Gorman Thomas’ facial hair was great.
Clemens strikeout count: 5
End first, 0-0: The Red Sox went quietly at the plate in the first inning. Mike Moore worked quickly to get an easy 1-2-3 inning.
Moore made the start for the Mariners, and people kind of forget this, but he had *some* similarities to Clemens. Moore was a high draft pick — No. 1 overall in 1981 — and was similar in size and stature to Clemens. He was a workhorse, leading the league in starts four different times in his career, but never quite panned out, at least not for a No. 1 pick.
Mid first, 0-0: The first inning actually was a bit of a chore for Clemens. The right-hander fell behind two of three batters and went to a full count against all three hitters. Of course, he still found a way to come back and strike out all of them.
Clemens clearly was trying to establish the inside corner, especially against Spike Owen, a former teammate at the University of Texas.
Clemens strikeout count: 3
Top first, 0-0: Roger Clemens’ first pitch to Spike Owen is a strike, the first of many, and we’re underway.
Here’s our umpiring crew, equipped with fantastic 1980s TV graphics.
Pregame notes: Before we get started, here are a few interesting tidbits — pregame notes, we’ll call them — about Clemens entering this start against Seattle.
Prior to the 20-K game, Clemens had two career starts against Seattle. Neither of them were good.
July 14, 1984: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 K
May 1, 1985: 7.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 8 K
That’s two starts, 10 1/3 innings, 16 hits, 11 earned runs, two home runs and just nine strikeouts. Not exactly dominant.
The weather on April 29, 1986, was nothing totally out of the ordinary. The gametime temperature was in the mid-50s with the wind blowing in.
You’ll probably find thousands and thousands of folks who claimed they were at Fenway Park that night. They probably were liars. Attendance was just 13,414 for this one. A big reason for that? The Celtics hosted the Atlanta Hawks in an NBA playoff game that night. Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins is pretty tough to pass up.
Pregame: Welcome to our retro live blog of Roger Clemens’ (first) 20-strikeout game on the 30th anniversary of the dominant showing. Starting at 11 a.m. ET, we’ll fire up this YouTube video on the MLB Classics page and give a running commentary of the entire game.
Before getting into that, let’s dive into the starting lineups that April night in Boston.
Seattle Mariners (7-12)
Spike Owen, SS
Phil Bradley, LF
Ken Phelps, 1B
Gorman Thomas, DH
Jim Presley, 3B
Ivan Calderon, RF
Danny Tartabul, 2B
Dave Henderon, CF
Steve Yeager, C
Mike Moore, RHP (1-1, 2.08 ERA)
Boston Red Sox (9-8)
Dwight Evans, RF
Wade Boggs, 3B
Bill Buckner, DH
Jim Rice, LF
Don Baylor, 1B
Rich Gedman, C
Marty Barrett, 2B
Steve Lyons, CF
Glenn Hoffman, SS
Roger Clemens, RHP (3-0, 1.85 ERA)