Clemens, a six-time Cy Young Award winner in the AL, came out of a brief retirement to pitch for his hometown team at the age of 41 after spending the previous five seasons with the New York Yankees.
He began the season in spectacular fashion, winning his first seven starts to give him 11 straight victories since last Sept. 11.
However, the right-hander has stalled of late. Clemens has not received a decision in his last two starts and is coming off his shakiest outing of the season. He was reached for a season-high six runs and nine hits while walking four in just five innings as the Astros lost 8-7 to the Reds on Saturday.
“It was disappointing,” said Clemens, who threw a season-high 105 pitches in his shortest outing of the season and had his major league-leading 1.72 ERA rise to 2.51. “I have to be better than that next time. I felt I let the team down.”
The Astros snapped a season-high five-game losing streak with a two-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs. They outscored their division rivals 12-3 to take sole possession of second place in the NL Central, a half-game behind first-place Cincinnati.
Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Kent hit back-to-back homers in the third inning and Adam Everett went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to a career-high nine games Wednesday, hitting .333 (12-for-36) in that span. The Astros are 13-4 when Everett has two or more hits in a game this season.
“Those are two big wins we needed to have, no matter who we’re playing,” said Bagwell, who is tied with Billy Williams for 33rd on the all-time homer list with 426. “But when you’re playing in the division, obviously you want to win those games. Anytime we play against the Cubs and Cardinals, those are hyped up games and to win those is a good start.”
Scott Rolen continued his hot hitting for the Cardinals on Thursday. The third basemen homered and drove in four runs to help St. Louis snap a three-game losing streak and split an abbreviated two-game series at Pittsburgh with a 6-3 victory.
Rolen has eight RBIs in his last three games for a major league-leading 49 this season.
“The guy is amazing,” catcher Mike Matheny said of Rolen. “He’s been carrying us for a while. We can’t rely on only him.”