Comfortable and confident, Roger Clemens was in command.
Clemens, pitching to catcher Joe Girardi for the first time in 2 1/2 months, looked every bit the ace of the New York Yankees' staff with eight sharp innings Friday night in an 8-0 victory over Seattle.
"This is the Roger Clemens that won those Cy Young Awards," manager Joe Torre said. "He was terrific. Tonight, he was dominant."
"I don't really rate them, I'm just glad we won," Clemens said. "I just felt good. Mentally, I think I was a little sharper."
The Yankees won the opening game of a series for the 13th straight time. The AL East leaders also stopped the Mariners' three-game winning string.
All season, the Yankees have waited for a sign Clemens would regain the form that won him five Cy Young Awards. The fans have wanted the same thing and, after light booing when Clemens was introduced, the crowd of 51,985 spent the whole night cheering for him.
Clemens clicked with Girardi. The veteran catcher had not started any of Clemens' games since June 6, and only five of 23 overall.
Before the game, Torre said he just decided to try Girardi. After it ended, Torre said Girardi will catch Clemens' next start, too.
"I liked what I saw," Torre said. "I thought he was good with Joey."
The switch from Jorge Posada to Girardi worked. Clemens did not seem to shake off Girardi, popping lively fastballs into his mitt.
"He's been back there enouh," Clemens said. "He's caught a lot of my 'pens."
Said Girardi: "We know that the fun time of the year is approaching soon, and we know we need him."
Clemens helped himself in the first inning by going to his knees to barehand a tapper by Alex Rodriguez and throw out Brian Hunter at the plate.
After that inning, the Mariners moved only one runner past first base against Clemens, whose 4.45 ERA is his lowest since June 1.
Clemens' 245th win matched Dennis Martinez for 42nd place on the career list.
"He threw the ball pretty well," Rodriguez said. "He had a lot of strong innings. But we're not swinging the bats very well right now."
Jeff Nelson pitched a scoreless ninth to complete New York's 10th shutout, tied with Cincinnati for most in the majors.
Rookie Gil Meche (4-4) lasted 3 1-3 innings, giving up six runs, six hits and four walks.
The Yankees scored four times in the fourth, with Jeter's third single of the night chasing the 20-year-old Meche.
Ramsay was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma after pitcher Jeff Fassero was traded to Texas earlier in the day for a minor leaguer to be named.
Frankie Rodriguez pitched two innings for the Mariners without incident. Earlier this month in Seattle, he hit Chuck Knoblauch with a pitch and touched off a bench-clearing brawl that got him a seven-game suspension.
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