Standing at the brink of history for the second time in a week, Roger Clemens seems more concerned with his friends and family than himself.
With about 50 guests in attendance, the hard-throwing right-hander gets another chance to reach the 300-win plateau when the New York Yankees complete their three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
But after a failed attempt Monday in New York and a trip to Detroit, Clemens hopes he doesn’t need to buy 50 more plane tickets to Chicago for Saturday’s game against the Cubs.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to do this again next week,” he said. “As far as (me) worrying, not at this point in my career. It’s going to happen.”
Clemens is looking to become the 21st pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games and first since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat in 1990.
He soon will also join another exclusive club.
Clemens is 15 strikeouts shy of joining Ryan and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton as the only pitchers in history to notch 4,000 in a career.
However, the milestones aren’t the only things fueling Clemens.
“I’m never satisfied and I’m never going to get complacent with what I do until I know this is over,” said Clemens, who admitted the drive toward 300 intensified over the last few seasons. “Right now, you can think about 300. But once that passes, I’ve got people browbeating me to keep going.
“We still have a larger goal here and that’s what I like.”
Like all of the Yankees’ starting pitchers this season, Clemens got off to a spectacular start, dominating hitters in his 20th season the same way he did in his prime.
The six-time Cy Young Award winner opened the year 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA, but is 2-3 with a 5.24 ERA over his last six starts.
In his first attempt at 300 Monday, Clemens allowed season-highs of eight runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox—the club with which he spent the first 13 years of his career.
Detroit manager Alan Trammell, who batted over .300 against Clemens, hopes his players can postpone history for another day. Yet, he wants them to relish the challenge of facing one of the all-time greats in the same we he did.
“When you face the elite like that, they can embarrass you,” Trammell said. “The fear of failure and embarrassment was something I did not like. I found a way to find a little extra because against the best, you need a little extra.”
The Tigers snapped the Yankees’ three-game win streak with Saturday’s 4-2 victory as Dmitri Young homered in the fifth before hitting a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning as the Tigers ended a three-game skid.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Tigers - 5th place, 16 1/2 GB, AL Central.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (6-3, 3.71 ERA). Clemens is 21-10 with a 4.00 ERA, six complete games and three shutouts in 39 career starts against the Tigers. The second of his two 20-strikeout games came against Detroit in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 18, 1996.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Jeremy Bonderman (2-7, 5.43 ERA). Bonderman is 0-3 with a 4.86 ERA over his last four starts and hasn’t won since May 4 when he beat Tampa Bay 7-3. The 20-year-old right-hander didn’t figure into the decision of Detroit’s 6-5 win over Cleveland on Monday, despite allowing just two runs and three hits over six innings, while striking out seven and walking just one. The rookie makes his first career start against the Yankees.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - At 299-154, RHP Clemens has won 66 percent of his games during his career. Lefty Grove (.680) and Christy Mathewson (.665) are the only pitchers with 300 wins to own a better winning percentage. Both pitched in the early 1900s. … 1B Jason Giambi is showing signs of emerging from his season-long slump. He has nine hits in his last 33 at-bats, including seven extra-base hits. … LHP David Wells, who missed Friday’s game with a bruised left calf, will likely make his next scheduled start Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds. Tigers - OF Higginson is batting .397 with four doubles, one homer and four RBIs in 29 career at-bats against RHP Clemens. … Detroit has lost 12 of its last 14 meetings with New York dating to 2001. … Of the 42 home runs hit this season at Comerica Park, 31 have been hit during the 15 day games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 19-8 on the road; Tigers - 5-20 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Tigers - INF Dean Palmer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Danny Patterson (elbow), 60-day DL.