06/14/2003 12:38 AM ET
Clemens' key pitches
Roger Clemens threw 120 pitches in beating St. Louis for his 300th career victory Friday night, and the most memorable was a full-count fastball to Edgar Renteria in the second inning to record his 4,000th strikeout along the way. Here were the key pitches by Clemens, inning-by-inning:
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Clemens wasted no time in his chase for strikeout No. 4,000. He blew away Miguel Cairo, J.D. Drew and Al Pujols on swinging strikeouts, and the last one was especially notable. Pujols entered the game as the Majors' top hitter, with a .381 average.
Jim Edmonds entered the game hitting only .192 against Clemens as a former Angel, and he led off this inning with a homer to left. Scott Rolen followed with a double to the wall in left as the rain continued to fall. But Clemens quickly regained his composure and made immediate history. Edgar Renteria, trailing only Pujols in the NL hitting race, became Clemens strikeout victim No. 4,000 on a full count. It not only made history, but it started another streak of three consecutive strikeouts. This inning was far more taxing than the first; Clemens finished it with 42 total pitches already, 28 of them strikes.
With two out, Clemens asked for trouble. With two out and Cairo on first, he walked Pujols and faced the same hitter who had just taken him deep the inning before. But this time, after one strike, Clemens induced Edmonds to fly to left for the final out.
Clemens ran into immediate trouble in this inning, as the Cardinals came out with the clear approach of first-pitch swings. Rolen pulled him to left again, this time on the first pitch for a single. Renteria hit an 0-1 pitch to center, and the Cardinals had men at the corners with no outs. That brought up Clemens' former teammate, Tino Martinez, who hit a sac fly to left on the first pitch. Although it tied the score, it was a key out for Clemens. He then struck out Mike Matheny and ended the inning with a Kerry Robinson 4-3 groundout.
After letting Drew off the hook with an 0-2 count that resulted in a one-out walk, Pujols singled and then Clemens atoned in a big way for the Drew at-bat. Edmonds was up 2-0, and Clemens threw three consecutive strikes and fanned him on a splitter. A matter of feet then separated what could have been a big Cards lead and a clear path for Clemens. Rolen sliced a ball just right of the foul pole in right, then fouled back a full-count fastball, and then whiffed at a slider for the 10th Clemens strikeout.
The key pitch came on a 1-2 pitch to Renteria, the leadoff hitter. The ball was hit hard to deep left-center, and Clemens' reaction made it clear that it was a mistake pitch, but on a rainy, hazy day, the ball hung and Juan Rivera gobbled it up on the warning track in left-center. Clemens proceeded to retire Martinez and Matheny in succession to leave the inning with a 3-2 lead.
Clemens hit the 120-pitch mark, and after a leadoff fly out by Robinson, fans held their breath when Cairo yanked a 2-1 pitch deep to left. As with Rolen's scare in the fifth, this one was marginally left of the left-field foul pole. After another foul, Clemens climbed the ladder on Cairo with a heater and the result was a flyout to center. That was the last pitch Clemens threw on this night, as he left to another standing ovation -- and another precarious one-run lead with Chris Hammond on in relief.
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.