The two pitchers became friends this past winter when they played on a major league team touring Japan. Padres manager Bruce Bochy managed the team.
“Both of them have a maniacal focus on the mound on every pitch,” Bochy said. “No mental lapses out there. I look forward to them hitting against each other.”
Clemens has a major league-leading 1.53 ERA, though he enters Tuesday’s start off his worst outing of the season. The 339-game winner gave up five runs and five hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-2 loss to Milwaukee last Thursday. He yielded four runs in the seventh while retiring just one batter.
“I think his hip was bothering him a little,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “It’s very uncharacteristic of him to have that kind of inning. But I don’t think that’s the story. Our offense has just gone stone cold.”
That start was at Minute Maid Park, but Clemens has turned in his best work on the road this season, going 6-1 with an 0.37 ERA in 11 road outings.
Peavy—the major league leader with 183 strikeouts—is 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA over his last two outings. He was outpitched by Florida’s Josh Beckett his last time out, giving up two runs and five hits over six innings in a 2-0 loss Thursday.
“This is as bad as it gets, I don’t know what it takes to win a ballgame,” Peavy said. “I’m not going to blame the hitters. I didn’t do my job.”
Peavy, 19 years younger than the 43-year-old Clemens, is 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros. He is 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 home starts.
Houston moved into the top spot in the NL wild card race with a 6-2 victory Monday. The Astros are a half-game ahead of Florida and Philadelphia.
Starter Roy Oswalt surrendered two runs and five hits over five innings to record his first win in five starts. Lance Berkman homered and drove in three runs for the Astros, who improved to 18-9 against NL West opponents.
San Diego fell two games below .500 mark, but remained four games ahead of second-place Arizona in the West. It is the latest in a season that a team with a losing record has led a division.