06/13/2003 10:57 PM ET
300 wins, 4,000 Ks? Roger that!
Clemens picks up two milestones
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
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NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens gained entrance into one of the most exclusive clubs in sports Friday, becoming the 21st pitcher in Major League history to win 300 games, as the Yankees defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, in front of a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm real fortunate that I had the opportunity to do it here in this stadium and in this uniform," said Clemens. "I just couldn't have drawn it up any better."
Clemens became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1990 to reach 300 wins, tying Hall-of-Famers Early Wynn and Lefty Grove for 19th place on the all-time victory list. Clemens is the second pitcher to win No. 300 at Yankee Stadium, but the first Yankee to win it in front of the home fans.
"It felt like it was a postseason game, one out at a time," said manager Joe Torre. "It's really special. The fans, in spite of this weather, you can't say enough about how loyal they were tonight. The fact that Roger did it here, I know it was very special to him."
The Rocket also joined another fraternity Friday, striking out the 4,000th batter of his career. Only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136) have more strikeouts than Clemens, who had 10 on the night. Clemens also joined Carlton as the only pitchers to win No. 300 against St. Louis, which Carlton did in 1983.
"To have these two milestones that I was able to attain on the same night here, it couldn't have worked out any better," Clemens said. "4,000 and 300 put me with some great men that have ever stepped on that mound. I'm very happy to be able to catch these guys."
With roughly 40 friends and family members looking on, Clemens allowed two runs over 6 2/3, reaching his milestone in his fourth attempt. Clemens became the second pitcher to win his 300th game in a Yankees uniform, joining Phil Niekro, who won his 300th on Oct. 6, 1985 at Toronto. The only other hurler to win No. 300 at Yankee Stadium is Tom Seaver, who did it in 1985 as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
"I was shaking and nervous," said Debbie Clemens, Roger's wife. "He worked real hard for this one. He'll remember it and appreciate it because it took a long time to get it."
Clemens was pumped up from the first batter, striking out the side in the first. That left the Rocket one punchout shy of 4,000, as the stadium crowd buzzed with anticipation.
"It really set the tone for the night," Torre said. "The fans, right from the first hitter, they were standing on their feet. It was a memorable night."
Derek Jeter singled with one out in the first, and Jorge Posada hit an opposite-field double to left one out later, scoring Jeter all the way from first to give Clemens a 1-0 lead.
The lead disappeared quickly, as Jim Edmonds belted his eighth home run of the season to lead off the second. Scott Rolen doubled to put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but Clemens came back to strike out Edgar Renteria for his 4,000th strikeout, as flashbulbs popped across the stadium, recording the historic out.
Catcher Jorge Posada walked out to the mound to shake Clemens' hand, presenting him with the ball as the number "4,000" flashed up on the scoreboard in center field.
"It was great," Clemens said. "It brought me out of what we were doing when I saw him walking out. It clicked right there why he was walking out. It was nice for him to do that. Then we tried to get back in the flow."
Next up was Tino Martinez, making his first appearance in Yankee Stadium since he left after the 2001 season. With the crowd still revved up after Clemens' strikeout, Martinez received a standing ovation from the 55,214 in attendance, tipping his batting helmet as the fans chanted "Tino! Tino!"
"It was neat that Tino stepped out for me, then I stepped off the mound to welcome him back," Clemens said. "It was really cool."
Clemens greeted his former teammate by striking him out, doing the same to Mike Matheny to end the inning. Clemens struck out six batters in the first two innings, as he powered his way through St. Louis' lineup.
Hideki Matsui answered Edmonds' homer with a solo shot of his own to lead off the bottom of the second against St. Louis starter Jason Simontacchi, giving the Yankees a one-run lead. But the Cardinals tied the game in the fourth on Martinez's sacrifice fly. Ruben Sierra went deep for the first time as a Yankee in the bottom of the frame, giving New York a 3-2 lead.
"The guys got me the lead twice and I gave it back," Clemens said. "Once we got to 3-2, I had to get stingy somehow. I was just thinking about making pitches."
He did just that, taking the one-run lead and running with it. With one out in the fifth, he gave up a single to J.D. Drew and walked Albert Pujols, but the Rocket bore down and blew away both Edmonds and Rolen, giving him 10 strikeouts on the night. It was the 104th double-digit strikeout game in Clemens' career, the third-most in history behind Ryan (215) and Randy Johnson (188).
Clemens retired the side in order in the sixth and got two fly outs to center to open the seventh, but manager Joe Torre removed Clemens, calling on Chris Hammond to get the final out of the seventh inning, a move that prompted boos from the crowd.
"I told Roger after the game, 'I used to be popular here before you started doing this stuff,'" said Torre. "You have to do what you think is the right thing. I'm just glad it worked out. I would have booed too if I was sitting in the stands."
Drew bunted for a single on Hammond's first pitch, and Pujols followed with a single to right, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base. But Hammond got Edmonds to ground out to Alfonso Soriano at second, ending the inning and preserving Clemens' shot at victory.
"It was exciting, a lot more than I thought it'd be. It got a little hairy, but I got the third out," Hammond said. "To me, it felt like the seventh game of the World Series."
Clemens (7-4) allowed two runs on six hits, walking two and striking out 10. Clemens threw 120 pitches, 80 for strikes.
"He was overpowering," Posada said. "He was throwing a lot of fastballs. He couldn't throw the splitter because the ball was slipping out of his hands. He threw a lot of fastballs and sliders, especially to right-handed batters."
With the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead, Raul Mondesi single-handedly gave the bullpen some more breathing room, drilling a two-run home run in the seventh off Simontacchi (4-4).
"I wanted to kiss Mondesi when he hit that two-run homer," Torre said. "Once Mondy hit the home run, everybody seemed to breathe a little bit. Aside from that, it was like being at a no-hitter, where you don't want to change your seat or do different things."
Antonio Osuna, who blew Clemens' second shot at 300 on June 1 in Detroit, came out for the eighth, retiring all three batters he faced. With three outs left, the Yankees strolled out closer Mariano Rivera from the bullpen to slam the door for Clemens, who had joined his team on the bench, sitting in between Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.
"The ninth inning was pretty special," Torre said. "All of a sudden Roger shows up out of the clubhouse and sits between Mel and myself. You couldn't help but get choked up."
Rivera struck out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro, got Kerry Robinson to ground out back to the mound and got Miguel Cairo to ground out to Giambi at first, putting the finishing touch on Clemens' historic win with his eighth save of the season.
"I definitely wanted to get it for him. The last two outs were tough, but then, finally, we got it," Rivera said. "There was a lot of pressure, but we just went out there and did it. It was a big game for all of us. We wanted to be there for him."
At 300-155, Clemens' .659 winning percentage ranks him second all-time among right-handers whose careers started after 1900, trailing only Christy Matthewson, who was 373-188, a .665 mark.
When the last out was recorded at 10:13 p.m., Clemens walked out to the field to hug and thank each of his teammates and coaches.
"To have to go home empty after the last three starts, he doesn't have to do that anymore," Torre said. "I saw a tremendous sigh of relief when this thing was over. He was just looking to hug everyone in sight."
"Just being able to thank each guy on the field that I hugged on the field, it was amazing," Clemens said. "I'm glad it's done."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.