There’s a place in baseball history awaiting Roger Clemens. But the future Hall of Famer has yet to break through the threshold.
“I guess it’s become a quest now,” Clemens said. “Maybe we can get some ‘300 or Bust’ signs out there. I have another opportunity here at home, so hopefully I can take advantage of it.”
The set marks the sixth all-time meeting between the teams and first since the Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven games to win the 1964 World Series. The series also features the first appearance of former first baseman Tino Martinez in The Bronx since leaving after the 2001 season.
Clemens is looking to become the 21st pitcher in baseball history to reach the 300-win plateau and first since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1990.
Like all of the Yankees’ starters this season, Clemens enjoyed a spectacular start, dominating hitters in his 20th season the way he did in his prime.
He opened 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA, but is 2-4 with a 5.05 ERA over his last eight starts. After failing is his first chance to win 300, an 8-4 loss to Boston on May 26, Clemens left with the lead each of his last two starts, against Detroit and the Chicago Cubs, only to watch in anguish as the bullpen squandered the advantages.
Battling an upper respiratory infection, Clemens left Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Cubs after 6 1-3 innings with a 1-0 lead. But reliever Juan Acevedo gave up the three-run homer to Eric Karros on his first pitch.
“I’m not sure (Clemens is) completely over (the infection), but he looks a whole lot better than he did,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He seems to be fine. Is he 100 percent? I don’t think we know that.”
The bullpen’s inability to hold Clemens’ leads have given him the opportunity to break into two exclusive clubs in the same game. The six-time Cy Young Award winner is also just four strikeouts shy of joining Ryan and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton as the only pitchers in history to notch 4,000 in a career.
Martinez spent six seasons in New York after the 1995 season, coming to the Yankees in a trade from Seattle to replace the retired Don Mattingly. He quickly won over fans by asking to wear No. 24 instead of his customary No. 23—Mattingly’s number that has since been retired.
While developing into a fan favorite and helping the Yankees win four World Series championships, Martinez hit .279 and averaged 29 homers and 115 RBIs. However, when his contract expired following the 2001 season, the Yankees chose to sign free-agent Jason Giambi to a seven-year contract instead of retaining Martinez.
Martinez, who went on to sign a three-year deal to replace Mark McGwire with the Cardinals, strained his right hamstring Tuesday. He is listed as day-to-day but is intent on facing his former team.
“I better,” he said.
One day after getting no-hit for the first time in 45 years, the Yankees bounced back against the same Houston bullpen that shut them down, rallying for a 6-5 win Thursday. Alfonso Soriano hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning, and New York took advantage of a big error by Jeff Bagwell.
“It was very important to win the game today,” Soriano said. “Everybody knows the Yankees fight until the end.”
The Cardinals are coming off an 8-7 win in 13 innings at Boston on Thursday. Jim Edmonds hit an opposite-field, three-run homer in the 13th inning as St. Louis won after wasting a pair of late leads.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Simontacchi (4-3, 6.56 ERA). Simontacchi has won three straight games, including one perfect inning of relief during Sunday’s 11-10 win over Baltimore. The right-hander, who hasn’t lost since a 7-2 defeat to Cincinnati on May 13, makes his first career start against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (6-4, 3.81 ERA). Making his first career start against St. Louis, “The Rocket” has struck out 87 and walked 24 in 82 2-3 innings this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .382 avg., 54 RBIs and 55 runs; Pujols and Edmonds, 17 HRs; Edgar Renteria, 11 SBs. Yankees - Soriano, .294 avg., 18 HRs, 53 runs and 18 SBs; Jorge Posada, 44 RBIs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORD: Cardinals - 6-2; Yankees - 4-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - The Cardinals have won eight of 10. … 1B Martinez is batting .200 with a double and three RBIs in 10 career at-bats against RHP Clemens. … OF Pujols finished 0-for-5 Thursday, snapping a 12-game hitting streak. Yankees - RHP Clemens is 8-9 with a 5.22 ERA in 21 starts in interleague play. … SS Derek Jeter has struck out in 13 of his last 24 at-bats and has just six hits over his last 42 at-bats (.143). … OF Hideki Matsui is 14-for-25 with seven runs scored in the last seven games, raising his average from .250 to .279.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 13-17 on the road; Yankees - 15-16 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (pelvis), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Yankees - RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; 1B Nick Johnson (wrist), 15-day DL; CF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.