BOSTON -- Billed as the "Fight of the Century" and "The Brawl in Beantown" on the front page of a local tabloid, Game 3 of the American League Championship Series yesterday no longer centered on the New York Yankees' attempt to defend their title, or the Boston Red Sox being swallowed up again by the Curse of the Bambino.
Just the mere presence of Pedro Martinez, baseball's best pitcher and a candidate for league Most Valuable Player, transforms any game here into a spectacle. When he's opposed by five-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, returning to Fenway Park in Yankee pinstripes, it reaches epic proportions.
There wouldn't be a first-round knockout, but Boston's John Valentin landed a significant blow. The second batter to face Clemens, Valentin hit a two-run homer to start the Red Sox toward a 13-1 victory over New York before 33,190 at Fenway Park. Valentin finished with five RBIs, giving him 17 in the postseason.
The Yankees, with a 2-1 lead in the series, had tied a major-league record with 12 straight postseason wins, their last loss coming against Cleveland in Game 3 of the 1998 ALCS.
They had no chance against Martinez, who created a mismatch by holding the Yankees to two hits and striking out 12 over seven innings despite still being bothered by a strained muscle in his upper back. He struck out seven of nine batters during a sequence that began with two outs in the first inning.
Rather than blow smoke past the Yankees, he mesmerized them with his changeup -- the equivalent of landing a succession of stinging jabs instead of loading up for one round-house right.
"In the first inning, I had exactly what I had the whole game -- nothing. I didn't feel good at all. I just managed to spot well. The hardest I could probably throw was 89 [mph]," said Martinez, who has posted 17 straight scoreless innings.
"I was aching and I felt it from the get-go. I don't think if you were the one hurting like I'm hurting that you'd be pitching, unless you have the heart like I do or you're me. But I'm going to try to do it again. I'm not hiding anything. I'm hurting with every pitch I throw."
Clemens, who was dealing with some lower-back stiffness, couldn't live up to the hype. He didn't stay in the game long enough to wear out his welcome, departing after a leadoff single by Mike Stanley in the third.
With the count 0-1 on Brian Daubach and converted reliever Hideki Irabu finally able to get loose in the bullpen, manager Joe Torre made the switch. Daubach greeted Irabu with a homer to right, increasing Boston's lead to 6-0. Five of those runs were hung on Clemens, who also allowed six hits among 61 pitches. Irabu was torched for eight runs and 13 of Boston's ALCS-record 21 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"They got some hits off some good pitches," Clemens said. "Give those guys credit, they fought. I knew what I was up against. Obviously, I'd love to make a better showing than that, but everything happens for a reason."
Said Torre: "He got into some bad counts. He just didn't have the command he'd like to have and we'd like to see him have. In this ballpark, that's not a good sign. I wanted to get him out of there before he started forcing things."
Boston pitcher Bret Saberhagen, who gets the start tonight, said he would have sneaked in to see yesterday's game. The network broadcasting it, Fox, didn't break for a commercial in the middle of the first inning so as not to miss Clemens' stroll to the mound and the accompanying reaction from the Fenway faithful, which haven't forgiven The Rocket for landing in enemy territory.
They also haven't forgotten his postseason failings in Boston. Clemens started nine playoff games with the Red Sox and won only once, though his bullpen abandoned him on a few occasions. The lone victory came 13 years ago, against California in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS.
Those failures can't be erased, but Clemens silenced some critics by shutting out Texas over seven innings last weekend to finish New York's Division Series sweep.
He couldn't keep the fans quiet yesterday. They booed him the instant he emerged from the dugout before the bottom of the first. Signs were held up asking, "Roger who?" and proclaiming, "No ring for Roger." They chanted "Ro-ger, Ro-ger," as he readied to face leadoff hitter Jose Offerman, then erupted when Offerman tripled off the right-field fence on a ball that Paul O'Neill lost in the sun.
That was mild compared to the reaction over Valentin's fourth homer of the postseason, a Red Sox record. Following Offerman, he connected on a high fastball and put it into the netting above the Green Monster.
Two batters, and Clemens was behind 2-0. Of greater concern to the Yankees, Martinez was ahead 2-0.
"Once Offerman hit that ball, I knew my location would have to get better," Clemens said. "I saw the replay on Val's ball. It was a cross-seamer away and it ran like a two-seamer. It was up, too, and he hit it into the net. You definitely don't want to have a start like that."
Clemens, who allowed first-inning runs in 20 of his 30 starts during the regular season, finally returned to the dugout after a throwing error by Chuck Knoblauch and a two-out walk to Stanley had extended his stay on the mound.
It didn't appear he'd ever leave it in the second. Valentin drove in another run with a bouncer to short that followed a one-out double by Trot Nixon and single by Offerman. Clemens was up to 50 pitches when he walked Jason Varitek with two outs. No way The Rocket was going the distance, especially after Nomar Garciaparra followed with a run-scoring double for a 4-0 lead. Garciaparra would collect four hits, including his fourth homer of the playoffs in the seventh off Irabu.
That was an embarrassment of riches for Martinez, whose last appearance came in Monday's decisive fifth game of the Division Series, when he threw six hitless innings in relief to eliminate Cleveland. The quality of his pitches that night rivaled the stuff he brought into a Sept. 10 start against the Yankees, when he allowed only one hit, walked none and struck out 17.
Yesterday, Martinez set a Boston record for most strikeouts in a postseason game. He was just the third Red Sox pitcher to record at least 10, joining Bill Dinneen in 1903 and Smoky Joe Wood in 1912.
"His location and breaking ball certainly came into play [Monday] and I think it did again tonight," said manager Jimy Williams. "He got out in front of hitters and he used different pitches to start hitters off and to finish them off. He used his whole repertoire."
NL Championship Series
Atlanta (Maddux 19-9) at New York (Yoshii 12-8), 4: 09 p.m., chs. 11, 4
AL Championship Series
New York (Pettitte 14-11) at Boston (Saberhagen 10-6), 7: 50 p.m., chs. 45, 5