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Clemens Still Part of 300 Snub

Pitcher's search for milestone victory will continue after Karros' three-run homer off Acevedo leads Cubs to 5-2 win over Yankees.

June 08, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — It took New York Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens about two hours and 84 pitches Saturday to craft the makings of a masterpiece on as fine a canvas as baseball can offer, a gorgeous 70-degree day with a standing-room-only crowd packed amid the ivy and charm of historic Wrigley Field.

It took Yankee reliever Juan Acevedo about two seconds and one pitch to slice and dice that portrait up like a steak on the grill at Benihana's.

Eric Karros, the Dodger cast-off who was only in the game because starting first baseman Hee Seop Choi was hauled away in an ambulance in the fourth inning, smacked Acevedo's first pitch into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer in the seventh, denying Clemens in his third bid to notch victory No. 300.

Karros turned a one-run deficit into a two-run lead, and reliever Mike Remlinger struck out Jason Giambi with a full-count changeup and the bases loaded to end the eighth, leading the Cubs to a 5-2 victory and ending a nine-game, 65-year losing streak to the Yankees.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 11, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball -- Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens walked the Cubs' Moises Alou on a 3-and-1 count Saturday. It was reported incorrectly in a Sports article Sunday that Alou walked on a 3-and-2 pitch.

Karros' shot also made a winner of Cub ace Kerry Wood, who outdueled his childhood idol in a highly anticipated matchup of fireballing Texans, giving up one run and three hits and striking out 11 during a 7 2/3-inning performance that electrified a crowd of 39,363 and made a sunny June day feel more like October.

"The fans were great, the atmosphere was unbelievable, the stadium was out of control," said Wood, who had three losses and three no-decisions in his six previous starts. "I couldn't hear myself think in the dugout. It was awesome to be a part of....

"We definitely didn't want to give up anyone's 300th victory here. We don't like to lose at home, and we don't like any milestones set against us."

Clemens allowed two hits through six innings, hitting 99 mph on the speed gun to Sammy Sosa in the first, mixing his heat with a devastating split-fingered fastball, and striking out the side in the fifth. Hideki Matsui's home run in the fifth gave Clemens a 1-0 lead

But after striking out Corey Patterson to open the seventh, Sosa singled to left and Moises Alou walked on a borderline full-count pitch that Clemens felt was a strike. Clemens, who exchanged heated words with umpire Dan Iassogna in the sixth, fumed again, and Yankee Manager Joe Torre came to the mound to pull Clemens.

The move raised numerous eyebrows among the more than 500 media members credentialed for the game, because Clemens' pitch count was relatively low, his velocity was high, and the light-hitting Karros, who was batting .188 against right-handers, was due up.

But Clemens was suffering from an upper respiratory infection, and it was clear to Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre -- though not to many others -- that the 40-year-old right-hander was laboring.

"I was surprised he took him out, especially when he was going for his 300th win and was just shutting us down," Cub third baseman Lenny Harris said. "I couldn't tell [he was sick] because he just dominated us."

That didn't deter Torre, who summoned Acevedo, the right-hander who came into the game with a 7.83 earned-run average and four homers allowed in 23 innings.

"His breathing sounded a little desperate, he was just having trouble ventilating," Torre said of Clemens. "It was the combination of a cold he's had for a week and adrenaline. He was all pumped up. He used a lot of air out there.... He never asked to come out."

One pitch later, Torre regretted the move. Karros jumped on Acevedo's first-pitch fastball, hitting it off the chain-link fence behind the left-field seats for his sixth homer in only 91 at-bats this season.

Clemens did not meet with reporters afterward but said in a prepared statement that "I really don't think [the illness] affected my pitching. I just took a little more time between pitches."

Karros didn't question Torre's decision.

"It's ridiculous to second-guess that move because 99 times out of 100, I'm not going to hit a home run in that situation," said Karros, who followed his homer with his first Wrigley curtain call.

So, what happened Saturday?

"It must have been that one time," Karros said.

Karros, traded with second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to the Cubs for catcher Todd Hundley last December, doesn't start against right-handers but was summoned after a horrific fourth-inning collision between Choi and Wood that delayed the game for 17 minutes.

Jason Giambi sent a towering popup toward the right side that drifted back toward home plate in the wind. Choi sprinted in and, as he made the catch, collided with Wood, whose glove hit Choi in the face. As Choi fell, he smacked the back of his head hard into the third-base path and was knocked unconscious.

An ambulance entered through the right-field corner, Choi was secured on a backboard and transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. Choi was listed in fair condition and was moving and talking later in the day, which was a big relief to the Cubs.

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