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Baseball

Like Clemens never left

By Wire services
Published April 20, 2004

HOUSTON - Roger Clemens walked off the mound to a standing ovation after a series of blistering fastballs.

Clemens had just fanned his last batter of the day, an appropriate way to exit his 313th win. Not bad for a 41-year-old pitcher who briefly called it quits.

The Rocket still has plenty of fuel left, perhaps enough to get the Astros to the World Series for the first time in the franchise's 42-year history.

"The thing that I'll take from (Sunday) ... was that I didn't get winded this time," Clemens said after beating the Brewers 6-1. "I got a second wind and got a little stronger as I went."

Clemens struck out seven in seven innings, giving up one run and four hits to lead the Astros to their seventh win in eight games. The win moved Clemens within one of Gaylord Perry for 15th on the career list.

Clemens clearly has been the same power pitcher he was with Boston, Toronto and the Yankees: Two of his first 30 pitches Sunday dipped below 90 mph.

In his three starts with the Astros, Clemens has allowed seven hits and two runs for an ERA of 0.87.

Clemens finished with a flourish, getting five of his final six outs on strikeouts. His final pitch, the 100th of the day, was a 94 mph fastball that left Milwaukee's Brooks Kieschnick swinging at air.

That whiff brought the 38,195 at Minute Maid Park to their feet.

"You would run through a brick wall for the guy," Astros leftfielder Lance Berkman said. "He has a lot of enthusiasm and it pumps the rest of us up."

It's hard to imagine a better homecoming from a guy who ended his career, albeit for only 78 days, after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Marlins in October.

"He's a superstar pitcher," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He knows what it takes to get to that stature. ... Any time (pitchers) can watch a guy of that magnitude pitch, hopefully they can pick up a little bit."

Clemens has picked up a few other skills, too. He added the second RBI of his career Sunday, driving in Brad Ausmus with a single to rightfield.

[Last modified April 20, 2004, 01:20:37]


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