Lenny Megliola: Rocket, Schill are two for the ages
The starting pitchers last night at Fenway Park were Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, 45 and 40 years old, respectively.
And you thought they'd done away with the old-timers' game.
Both left a lasting impression - in Clemens' case that may truly be the case - with vintage performances. In the six innings he worked, Clemens gave up just two hits and an unearned run. That is what he is now, a six-inning pitcher.
Schilling had a little more in the tank ... and it cost him. He gave up a three-run homer to Derek Jeter in the seventh inning. It was his final piece of work. The score was 4-1. It ended 4-3. Clemens called Jeter "the best clutch hitter in the game."
Clemens didn't get the win, but his work was notable. He hadn't pitched since Sept. 3. The Red Sox were left with a 4 1/2-game lead over New York. "We have to just keep winning games," said Clemens. "Keep our intensity."
As far as the stir he causes whenever he pitches at Fenway, he said, "It's an opportunity to come back here and still be working. ... I look forward to coming back here when I retire and just watching a game.
"I love this town. I love coming back here."
Where was Clemens when Mariano Rivera retired David Ortiz with the bases loaded for the final out? Sitting down and watching. "I'm a fan," he said.
Clemens isn't pitching for a 2008 contract. The season will end, he'll go back to Texas and, even if he says he's done - really finished this time - there will be some doubt. It's never easy getting in Roger's head. On a December Monday, he'll be thinking retirement. On a January Wednesday, he'll be thinking comeback.
On the other hand, Schilling is pitching for an '08 contract. We know he's coming back, or wants to. But with what team? He wanted a new deal before the Red Sox left Fort Myers. General manager Theo Epstein didn't bite. It didn't help when Schilling went on the DL. He's had an uneven season, not one that would rush Epstein to get Schilling's name on a $13-14 million renewal. A monster postseason by Schilling could change things.
If it doesn't work out in Boston, Schilling said it might be fun joining the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I'm thinking, uh-uh.
When they reach 50 (years, not pitches), Clemens and Schilling won't have to flash any AARP ID to get a break on Polident or prunes. They've made enough dough to last five lifetimes. And earned it.
When bullpen crews of both teams walked out to their 'pens last night, neither Clemens or Schilling had finished warming up. So you had all these relievers, backup catchers and bullpen coaches standing on the field for about eight minutes, 20 yards away, watching royalty finish their business.
With flashbulbs flashing, Clemens had a first inning filled with one of just about everything: One error, one walk, one hit, one a run. A Robinson Cano homer tied it in the fifth. The old guys were holding up.
The similarities between Clemens and Schilling are clear: Power-throwing righthanders with a nod towards baseball history, and their place in it. They both have healthy egos, Schilling's more obvious because it's just his personality. He struts around the clubhouse in cock-of-the-walk fashion, sure of his place and ready to defend it. Clemens, less wordy, less articulate, dominates a clubhouse with his physical presence. His numbers are first ballot Cooperstown numbers. He really didn't need to add to them at a freakish 45.
Still, you had to figure this would be Clemens' last tango for sure. Depending how the first-round of the playoffs go, this likely was his last Fenway appearance, although we've already been down that road once with him. He's had more retirements than Joan Rivers has had facelifts.
He sorta retired from the Astros, then came back. The Astros let him come and go as he pleased, as long as he was willing to punch in every five days. Nice work if you can get it.
Was he really finished, after his Houston stay? Clemens kept hedging his bets, and the speculation started. Would he choose the Red Sox or Yankees? There was always that soap opera about him. His 2007 numbers stick out, but not for the right reasons. He started the night 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA. The Yankees won't complain publicly, but they must have been hoping for more from Clemens when they backed the Wells Fargo truck into his driveway.
Clemens and Schilling could hook up again in October. If it doesn't happen, a lot folks watching last night will be telling their grandkids they saw Clemens against Schilling on a chilly September Sunday night. For the last time.
(Lenny Megliola is a Daily News columnist. His e-mail is email@example.com)