Rogers Clemens’ date with history has been twice delayed. Now it’s being overshadowed.
With the Sammy Sosa corked-bat incident still a major story, Clemens will try to steal some of the spotlight when he takes his third shot at his 300th win as the New York Yankees continue their series with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“I’d like to get it done, so we can cut down on the travel and the hoopla that goes with it,” said Clemens, adding he expects 40 family and friends to be in attendance.
“I appreciate the fact everybody is excited about it. I am, too.”
Clemens is looking to become the 21st pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games and first since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1990.
Like all of the Yankees’ starters this season, Clemens got off to a spectacular start, dominating hitters in his 20th season the same way he did in his prime.
The hard-throwing right-hander opened 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA, but is 2-3 with a 5.34 ERA over his last seven starts. After allowing eight runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in his first chance at 300, an 8-4 loss to Boston on May 26, Clemens looked to have the milestone wrapped up Sunday against Detroit.
He left with an 8-6 lead, yielding six runs—four earned—and seven hits over six innings, but the bullpen squandered the advantage. The Yankees eventually won 10-9 in 17 innings.
Clemens is also on the brink of entering another exclusive club.
The six-time Cy Young Award winner is nine strikeouts shy of joining Ryan and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton as the only pitchers in history to notch 4,000 in a career.
Clemens, who twice struck out 20 in a contest, will be opposed by Kerry Wood, the only other pitcher to fan 20 in a nine-inning game.
“He’s going for his 300th win, he’s going for 4,000 strikeouts,” Wood, a fellow Texan, said of his boyhood idol.
“I have to put that out of the way and not have that even be part of the equation. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Clemens’ latest attempt to join the 300-win fraternity has been obscured a bit by the controversy engulfing Sosa.
Sosa, the only player to hit at least 60 homers in three different seasons, was suspended eight games Friday for using a corked bat in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Tampa Bay.
The outfielder is appealing the suspension, making him eligible for this series.
Sosa has been in a slump since coming off the disabled list May 30. He went 1-for-4 in Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees—the first meeting between the teams since the 1938 World Series. He is hitting .179 (5-for-28) over his last seven games.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Cubs - 2nd place (tied), 1 GB, NL Central.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (6-3, 3.89 ERA). Opponents are hitting .278 and have an on-base percentage of .313 against Clemens, who has struck out 82 and walked 23 over 76 1-3 innings. He is making his first career appearance against the Cubs.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Wood (4-4, 3.14 ERA). Wood opened the season 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his first six starts but is 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA over his last six outings. The right-hander, who hasn’t won since beating San Francisco on April 29, allowed five runs and six hits over six innings in Sunday’s 9-3 loss to Houston. The major league leader with 100 strikeouts, Wood is making his first career appearance against the Yankees.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Yankees - 2-2. Cubs - 2-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - RHP Clemens is 8-8 against NL teams since interleague play began in 1997. … RHP Clemens may be part of a historical day in sports. Along with his quest for 300, Funny Cide will attempt to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978 and hockey’s New Jersey Devils will attempt to win their third Stanley Cup. … The Yankees acquired OF Ruben Sierra Friday from Texas for minor league OF Marcus Thames. Cubs - SS Alex Gonzalez has just four hits in 21 at-bats against RHP Clemens but has two homers. … OF Sosa hasn’t homered since May 1. … The Cubs had scored just 19 runs in their first eight games of their homestand before putting up 11 over their last two.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 22-10 on the road; Cubs - 16-15 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. Cubs - LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.
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