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This time bullpen foils Clemens

Roger Clemens' gem is wasted as his 3rd bid to win No. 300 is lost when reliever Juan Acevedo's first pitch surrenders a 3-run shot to Eric Karros.

By Associated Press
Published June 8, 2003

CHICAGO - Strike 3 for Roger Clemens.

The Rocket remained stuck on career victory No. 299 Saturday, watching his bullpen blow his lead with its first pitch and delay his entry into one of baseball's most exclusive fraternities.

Kerry Wood pitched a gem and substitute Eric Karros hit a three-run homer to lead the Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the Yankees.

Karros was in the game only after a scary collision in the fourth inning sent Cubs first baseman Hee Seop Choi to the hospital.

The road show that's become Clemens' pursuit of 300 goes back to where it started May 26 - Yankee Stadium. Clemens (6-4) faces St. Louis on Friday night, trying to become the 21st - and first since Nolan Ryan in 1990 - with 300 victories.

Clemens lost to Boston in his first bid, then blew a six-run lead at Detroit.

If any setting was ever perfect for Clemens to get the milestone victory, Saturday was it. He never had pitched at Wrigley Field, spending the 1990 All-Star Game on the bench.

The Yankees are visiting the ballpark for the first time since the 1938 World Series, with the atmosphere as electric as any playoff series.

Topping it all off, Clemens' opponent was Wood, a tall Texan with a sizzling fastball who was drawing comparisons to the Rocket even before he stepped on a big-league mound.

In just his fifth career start, Wood matched Clemens' 20-strikeout record. Clemens has done it twice.

And Wood (5-4) brought that same nasty stuff with him Saturday, getting his 50th career victory and first win since April 29. He gave up just one run and three hits in 72/3 innings and struck out 11.

"All the hype, Kerry's got great stuff and he's throwing a one- or two-hitter," Karros said. "He's a guy that can dominate any day and we were going up against a guy that can dominate as well."

Though Wood grew up idolizing another Texan - Ryan, whose No. 34 he wears - it was clear how much this game meant to him. When he botched a bunt that got Damian Miller thrown out at third in the sixth, his disgust with himself was evident as he hit his spikes with his batting helmet.

Wood struck out four of his first five batters, and had eight strikeouts through the first five innings, making the Yankees look silly when they couldn't come close to the ball.

He retired 14 of his first 15 batters, and didn't allow a hit through 42/3 innings.

But his luck appeared to run out when Hideki Matsui lofted one to rightfield in the fifth for a 1-0 lead. And with the way Clemens was pitching, it looked as if that might be enough for the Yankees to improve to 6-0 at Wrigley Field.

Clemens had allowed just two hits through his first six innings, dazzling the fans with fastballs that reached into the high 90s - he hit 99 mph on a pitch to Sammy Sosa.

But after striking out Corey Patterson to start the seventh, things fell apart.

Sosa - who hit his first career home run off Clemens - singled to left. Clemens then walked Moises Alou on five pitches. That was enough for Yankees manager Joe Torre, who called on his bullpen. Clemens barely sat down in the dugout when Juan Acevedo gave up a long homer to Karros, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead and prolonging Clemens' date with history.

"I apologized to Roger. Nobody wants to go in and screw up," Acevedo said.

Shortly after Clemens left the game, the Yankees announced he had an upper respiratory infection and wouldn't be speaking with the media after the game.

"I really don't think it affected my pitching," Clemens said on a quote sheet.

He allowed two runs and three hits in 61/3 innings. He struck out five, leaving him four short of 4,000 for his career, and walked one.

The Yankees threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs before Mike Remlinger struck out Jason Giambi. Jorge Posada homered in the New York ninth.

[Last modified June 8, 2003, 01:33:29]

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