Stiff arm forces M’s Abbott to leave superb duel with Clemens
By JOHN McDONALD
SEATTLE — Just pitching in the postseason has been icing on the cake for Seattle right-hander Paul Abbott, but that icing turned bittersweet Saturday when he was the losing pitcher in a 5-0 loss to the New York Yankees at Safeco Field.
Abbott spent all or part of his first 15 years in professional baseball in the minor leagues before this, his first full major league season. Much of that time he spent recovering from injuries. He spent time on the disabled list in seven of eight seasons between 1992-99. He had shoulder surgery in 1998 and knee surgery in 1999.
So it was somewhat disappointing when he had to leave Saturday’s game before the start of the sixth inning with stiffening in his shoulder.
"It was kind of coming on there the last few innings," said Abbott, who is now 1-1 in two postseason starts. "Every time I sat down, it was harder to get going again."
Abbott was near-perfect over the first five innings. He gave up a hit-and-run single to Paul O’Neill in the second. With the runner on first in motion, O’Neill lined one through the hole at shortstop created when Alex Rodriguez left his position to cover second base. But Abbott pitched out of the first-and-third, one-out jam.
However, after getting two quick outs in the fifth, Abbott gave up a single to Scott Brosius, a walk to Chuck Knoblauch and a three-run home run to Derek Jeter, a hit Abbott thought at first to be a routine fly ball.
"I started walking off the field," Abbott said, "but it just kept going and going and going. I haven’t seen that happen ever here."
Abbott said the pitch to Jeter was neither bad nor great, but it wasn’t in as much as he would have liked.
"It was a fastball in and he sorta inside-outed it," Abbott said. "It had some serious backspin on it. It just kept climbing and climbing."
Abbott had just walked Knoblauch on four pitches and thrown a first-pitch ball to Jeter, prompting a visit to the mound by M’s pitching coach Bryan Price.
"I was still throwing well," Abbott said. "He said ‘Don’t give in to him and make a good pitch.’ I have never seen a ball travel that well."
Abbott was thrilled to have been caught in a pitchers’ duel with New York’s Roger Clemens. A major leaguer since his second professional season in 1984, Clemens’ career is about as different from Abbott’s as one can be.
Clemens, who once struck out 20 Mariners in a 1986 game, took a no-hitter into the seventh, wound up with a one-hitter and fanned 15.
"I wish I could have been in the stands to see it," Abbott said, "but from where I was sitting, it wasn’t much fun. He was a five-time Cy Young Award winner tonight, no doubt."
The two pitchers engaged in a little gamesmanship early on. After Clemens came up and in on Rodriguez twice in the second inning, Abbott forced New York’s Jorge Posada to take a dive in the third.
"That’s part of the game," Abbott said. "You’ve gotta throw inside, you’ve gotta keep hitters honest.
"He threw one to A-Rod. The second one was a forkball. I don’t think he intended to throw it there.
"That’s pitching. You have to do that. To be a successful pitcher, you have to pitch inside."
Abbott said pitching against a competitor like Clemens forces you to stay on top of your game.
He hopes he gets another opportunity.
"You couldn’t script it any better," Abbott said. "You’re facing the New York Yankees and Roger Clemens and you walk off the field after a scoreless inning and everybody is waving hankies, it’s something I’ll take with me forever."
Trainer Rick Griffin said there’s no reason Abbott couldn’t make his next scheduled start. "We just have to win a few more games so he can pitch again," Griffin said.
Abbott echoed the sentiment.
"It’s such a game of momentum," he said. "If we win (today) and get back to New York, we played two great games there, anything can happen.
"Now, we win three straight, go to the World Series and I make another start," Abbott said.
No one deserves it more.
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