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Red Ahead for Clemens at 298

Yankee fails to pick up victory against Rangers, but his next two starts will be against Boston, his first team, as he goes for milestone.

May 17, 2003|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Roger Clemens failed to register his 299th victory Friday night, dooming one tantalizing scenario but creating another.

Now, pitching against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night in Fenway Park and again on the following Monday in Yankee Stadium, Clemens can achieve both his 299th win and historic 300th against the team with which he spent his first 13 seasons before then-general manager Dan Duquette decided he had reached the twilight of his career.

That was six-plus years and 106 victories ago, and the way this works out, with Clemens now having a chance to double up on the Red Sox and win No. 300 in the Bronx, where he won No. 200 and where he is now employed, it is even a little more special than if he was simply going for 300 -- a plateau reached by only 20 pitchers -- in his former place of employment on Wednesday night.

Clemens, in fact, had said his preference would be to go for No. 300 at Yankee Stadium, and there was speculation that the Yankees might juggle their rotation if he won Friday night (Manager Joe Torre insisted that was never discussed), but none of that is to suggest that, above all, he wouldn't have preferred to pitch better against the Texas Rangers, to get 299 out of the way, to have saved the Yankees from going extra innings and extending the bullpen.

On a cold and blustery night, however, Clemens pitched only five innings. He struck out 10 but walked five, gave up six hits, delivered 105 pitches (only 60 for strikes) and left losing, 5-3, after initially falling behind, 5-1.

The Yankees would ultimately tie the game, 5-5, in the eighth, taking Clemens off the losing hook, before Juan Acevedo of the Yankees took the loss in the 12th, 8-5.

Texas third baseman Hank Blalock, the American League's leading hitter in what is tantamount to his first full season even though he is not classified as a rookie, had a three-run double off Clemens in the second inning before blasting another three-run double off Acevedo in the 12th.

Torre was asked later if he thought Clemens was pumped up more than usual as he went after 299.

"I didn't see that," Torre said. "I don't think he was muscling up as much as he was just out of sync, out of balance. He had great stuff and said he felt good, but he was just out of rhythm. I talked to him after he came out and it was a mystery to him too."

Clemens concurred, saying that he was disappointed to have put the Yankees in a hole, that he felt great despite the bad weather, but that the 10 strikeouts were meaningless when measured against too many walks and bad counts.

He now can win 300 at Yankee Stadium, as he hoped, but when asked about that scenario, he said, "another win and I'll think about it, but I don't think it's fair to [my teammates] to talk about that the way they battled back. I mean, I'm out there trying to win the game, not looking ahead, and this just proves it's not easy, especially when you make it tough on yourself."

For the Yankees, holding only a one-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East, they lost more than the game. First baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson, batting .308 with five home runs and 18 runs batted in, will be sidelined four to six weeks because of a stress fracture in his right hand.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Actively Seeking 300

While the 500-home-run club seems now open to all comers, 300 victories has remained a daunting standard for all but the most durable of standout pitchers. Since Nolan Ryan won his 300th game in 1990, the sixth pitcher in a nine-year stretch to do so, no pitcher has reached that level. Here are baseball's active leaders, with an analysis of their chances:

*--* Seasons G IP H BB SO W L ERA 1. Roger Clemens, Yankees Age: 40 20 583 4125.2 3529 1444 3969 298 153 3.15

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Chances: A Lock. Despite a Friday no-decision that will cost him the opportunity to reach 300 in his former home of Fenway Park, it's just a matter of time for the Rocket.

*--* 2. Greg Maddux, Braves Age: 37 18 549 3809.2 3466 821 2675 276 157 2.86

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Chances: Excellent. Having righted himself after a poor start this spring, and working on a streak of 15 consecutive seasons of 15 or more victories, Maddux probably will reach 300 in the middle of next season.

*--* 3. Tom Glavine, Mets Age: 37 17 514 3399.2 3234 1159 2082 246 146 3.38

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Chances: Very Good. Despite a move to a less successful team this season, he has continued to win and is second in consistency only to former teammate Maddux, with 14 consecutive seasons of double figures in victories. Barring injury and loss of form, he could reach 300 by 2006.

*--* 4. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks Age: 39 16 440 3031.2 2340 1236 3777 225 108 3.09

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Chances: Slim. After 4 1/2 seasons as the National League's dominant power pitcher, including his finest season last year at age 38, Johnson got off to a horrendous start this season, then had arthroscopic knee surgery May 1. Needing four to five solid seasons to reach 300, his age is against him.

*--* 5. Chuck Finley, free agent Age: 40 17 524 3197.1 3069 1332 2610 200 173 3.85

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Chances: None. Although the former Angel favorite, late of the Cardinals, has not formerly retired, he also remains unsigned.

-- Van Nightingale

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*--* THE NEXT 10 Player, Team Age Seasons IP W-L 6. David Cone, Mets 40 18 2896.2 194-126 7. David Wells, Yankees 39 17 2674.1 190-122 8. Mike Mussina, Yankees 34 13 2512.0 189-103 9. Kevin Brown, Dodgers 38 18 2897.1 187-123 10. Jamie Moyer, Seattle 40 18 2570.0 169-127 11. Kevin Appier, Angels 35 15 2509.0 163-129 11. John Smoltz, Braves 36 16 2577.2 163-118 13. Curt Schilling, Diamondbacks 36 16 2468.1 158-110 14. Pedro Martinez, Red Sox 31 12 1952.2 156-65 15. John Burkett, Red Sox 38 17 2514.1 155-129

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