New York Joe Torre walked up to Roger Clemens about an hour before the game and delivered a message: "We need you today."
Clemens responded in style, striking out 10 in his 292nd career victory as the New York Yankees strengthened their grip on the AL East with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
"I heard him loud and clear," Clemens said. "When your skipper mentions that, it's nice when you can come through."
Clemens said his manager gives him a similar message a couple of times a year, usually before a big postseason game.
But with the Yankees having lost three straight and their biggest rivals in town, this game warranted special attention.
"We hadn't lost three in a row for a while," Torre said. "I don't care how good your team is, there's always that little uneasy feeling when you lose a couple of games in a row."
The win increased the Yankees' lead in the division to 7 1â2 games over Boston with one meeting left. The Red Sox dropped 5 1â2 behind Anaheim in the wild-card race.
"We can't worry about that," manager Grady Little said. "We have to worry about beating those guys tomorrow."
Clemens (12-5) established himself from the start against his former team, striking out the first four batters and making three first-inning runs stand up.
Derek Jeter homered off Frank Castillo (5-13) and a rare error by second baseman Rey Sanchez helped the Yankees score twice more in the first.
That was enough for Clemens.
He allowed one earned run and four hits in 7 1â3 innings against the team he started his brilliant career with before leaving as a free agent following the 1996 season.
Clemens posted his 102nd career double-digit strikeout game third most all-time and won for the 19th time in his last 20 decisions at home.
His .767 winning percentage at Yankee Stadium is the best for any New York pitcher with at least 30 wins.
Clemens left to a standing ovation in the eighth.
Robin Ventura hit a solo homer with two outs in the eighth, giving the Yankees an insurance run.
Rangers 7, Orioles 1
Baltimore An unlikely trio of Texas Rangers nearly combined to pitch an unusual no-hitter.
Rangers starter Aaron Myette was ejected after throwing two pitches, and Todd Van Poppel pitched two innings. Rookie Joaquin Benoit then extended the no-hitter through eight innings before allowing the Orioles' lone hit a leadoff triple in the ninth by Jerry Hairston.
Myette was ejected by plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck after his first two pitches went behind Mora, an apparent retaliation for Alex Rodriguez being hit by a pitch in the top of the first.
Tigers 4, Indians 0
Detroit Rookie Andy Van Hekken pitched a complete game shutout in his major league debut.
Detroit won for the first time in six games and snapped a nine-game home losing streak.
Van Hekken (1-0), a native of Holland, Mich., on the state's west side, struck out one and walked two as he pitched in front of more than 100 family and friends.
Angels 10, Devil Rays 2
St. Petersburg, Fla. Jarrod Washburn became Anaheim's first 16-game winner in nine years and Orlando Palmeiro drove in a career-high four runs.
Washburn (16-5) gave up two runs and six hits in five innings. The last time an Anaheim pitcher won 16 games in a season was 1993, when Mark Langston and Chuck Finley accomplished the feat.
Jorge Sosa (1-7) allowed seven runs and seven hits in five-plus innings for the Devil Rays, who failed to match their longest winning streak of the season at four games.
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 4
Toronto Jose Valentin's second homer of the game broke a tie in the seventh inning as Chicago won a season-high seventh straight.
Valentin also broke a 2-all tie in the fifth off Esteban Loaiza (7-8) and gave Chicago the lead for good in the seventh off Loaiza with his 21st homer. Both were solo shots.
Paul Konerko also homered for the White Sox, whose streak is their longest since an eight-game run June 12-20, 2000.