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Clemens Seeks Motown Party

New York right-hander again goes for 300th victory when Yankees play Detroit today.

June 01, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — The Roger Clemens 300th victory tour rolls today into Comerica Park, where the New York Yankee right-hander will try to carve out another piece of history for himself in front of an expected sellout crowd and a personal entourage of 40 to 50 family members and friends.

Clemens' first try to become the 21st player to reach 300 victories was a disaster. In front of a Memorial Day sellout crowd in Yankee Stadium on Monday, Clemens was rocked for eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

But awaiting the 40-year-old Clemens today is a youthful Tiger team that has the second worst record in baseball (14-39), the lowest batting average (.215), and the fewest runs (158) and homers (38). His counterpart is 20-year-old right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, one of baseball's youngest players.

"I'm hoping he's going to think it's going to be easy; any time you underestimate someone, that can come up and bite you," Detroit catcher Brandon Inge said. "But knowing Roger, knowing the type of competitor he is, I seriously doubt that's going to happen."

Neither does Clemens, who doesn't expect any letdown after missing a chance to notch his 300th victory at home against the team whose former general manager, Dan Duquette, claiming Clemens was "in the twilight of his career," allowed him to leave Boston as a free agent after 1996.

"My emotions never change," Clemens said. "They're the same. If they weren't, I would be letting down a lot of people, especially myself."

Clemens' 300th victory isn't the only milestone within grasp. The six-time Cy Young Award winner needs 15 strikeouts to become the third to reach 4,000, joining Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136) on that exclusive list.

It was in Detroit, in old Tiger Stadium, where Clemens struck out 20 batters in a five-hit shutout Sept. 18, 1996. That was the second time in Clemens' career he struck out 20, a major league record he shares with Chicago Cub right-hander Kerry Wood.

"I had dinner with Randy Johnson [at a golf tournament] this past winter, and we started talking about 4,000 strikeouts and some of the records," said Clemens, who has announced this will be his last season. "He knows the numbers and history a lot more than me, and it's a fun thing to talk about, but I don't dwell on those things.

"I've really enjoyed the articles you've all written, but it's not like I look at them before games. I want to save those so down the road I can kick back, read what was written, who you guys compared me to. That's when I'll really get to enjoy this."

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