Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Sean Burnett idolized Roger Clemens so much growing up that he found a way to get a ticket to Game 4 of last year’s World Series, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Rocket in what was supposed to be his final major league start.
He’ll get a much closer look when the Pirates close out a four-game series with Clemens and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Burnett, who will be making just his third career start, was named the Eastern League’s pitcher of the year in 2003 after going 14-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 27 starts at Double-A Altoona. It hasn’t taken long for the 22-year-old left-hander to make his way to the majors, but he has gone winless in his first two starts, including Saturday’s 5-1 setback to Seattle.
Now, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound southpaw will take another shot at his first career win against his idol, who has racked up 319 big league victories, including nine this year after coming out of his brief retirement.
“Now I get to pitch against him. It’s amazing” said Burnett, who ended up sitting behind the New York Yankees’ dugout at Pro Player Stadium last October as Clemens pitched seven strong innings against the Florida Marlins during his supposed swan song.
Clemens was 9-0 in his first 12 starts for Houston before dropping each of his last two outings. On Saturday, the six-time Cy Young Award winner was reached for five runs and nine hits over a season-low 4 2-3 innings in a 6-4 loss to Anaheim.
Over his last two starts, Clemens has allowed 10 runs and 19 hits over 10 2-3 innings.
The Astros took the first two games from Pittsburgh, but had a three-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the Pirates.
Jason Kendall belted his first career grand slam as Pittsburgh snapped a five-game losing streak and won for just the second time in 17 games at Houston. The Pirates have only won four of their last 23 overall, and two of 13 on the road.