The seven-time Cy Young Award winner has been spectacular for Houston, but was just 3-3 in his first 11 starts despite a 1.30 ERA. Clemens was victimized by poor run support as the Astros were among the league worst in batting average and runs scored in the early going.
Since a 6-4 win at St. Louis on June 5, though, Clemens is 4-0 in his last six starts, while Houston has gone 21-9 in that span to climb out of the NL Central cellar and into second place.
He threw seven shutout innings for his 335th career win in a 9-0 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday. He also went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and is batting .281 (9-for-32) this season.
“That’s the way he pitches every game,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “He takes pride in everything he does—hitting, hunting, golf, blackjack, whatever you have, he wants to beat you. Perhaps you’re seeing the greatest right-hander who ever pitched.
“He might have lost some velocity over the years, but he still locates just as well. He has that knack to make pitches when it counts. He puts his foot on your neck when he needs to.”
The 42-year-old Clemens, who will make his 11th career All-Star appearance, allowed four hits, struck out four while lowering his major league-leading ERA to 1.41.
The Astros look to bounce back after a 7-5 loss to San Diego on Thursday.
Morgan Ensberg, Craig Biggio and Raul Chavez each homered for Houston, which had its four-game winning streak snapped with just its second loss in nine games, and its second in 14 games at Minute Maid Park.
The struggling Dodgers split a four-game series at Colorado after an 8-5 defeat Thursday.
Los Angeles, which has lost 16 of its last 23 games, had yet another player succumb to injury. Reliever Kelly Wunsch sprained his right ankle on his last warmup pitch before he was expected to enter the game.