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With September's arrival came another shaky Roger Clemens outing, and more concerns over what the Yankees can expect from their supposed ace when October arrives.

Like a race car out of whack, up and down, speeding all over, The Rocket ran into a wall Wednesday night, falling to the A's, 7-1, at Yankee Stadium. With their second straight loss and Cleveland's 8-1 victory over Anaheim, the Yankees (81-51) dropped a game behind the Tribe in the race for the AL's top playoff seed. Their only highlight came in the second inning, when designated hitter Chili Davis slammed his first triple in 2,216 at-bats (since May 11, 1994, with the Angels). He had been the active player with the most at-bats between triples.

Clemens, now 12-7 with a 4.54 ERA, wasn't jeered by the crowd of 34,468 only because Joe Torre removed him from the game between innings. Clemens did pitch an acceptable seven innings, but he allowed five runs and six hits, walked four, and struck out nine. He had good stuff and bad timing.

Following the game, the Yankees spoke glowingly of his effort. "I think he threw harder than he did all year," Torre said. Catcher Joe Girardi added: "If he took that stuff out there 10 times, he'd win nine." Yet ultimately, The Rocket couldn't retire the key batters. All five runs he allowed came with two outs, a trend that can't continue come playoff time.

The Yanks have scored three runs in two nights, and there was no need to summon newly returned pinch hitter Darryl Strawberry -- although that didn't stop a few lonely fans from chanting, "DAR-RYL!" as the game dragged to its conclusion.

For the third time this season, the Yanks could do very little against A's starter Omar Olivares, scratching out just six hits. Olivares (13-9) beat the Yanks at the Stadium on May 13, then beat Clemens in Oakland on Aug. 10. He became the first pitcher to defeat the Yanks three times in one year since Jeff Fassero (then with Seattle) did so in 1997.

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