Houston started its winning streak when Clemens allowed one run and five hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 10-2 victory over Florida last Wednesday. Clemens was heavy-hearted on the mound, pitching after being by his mother’s side earlier in the day when she died of complications from emphysema. The NL ERA leader at 1.77—had been 0-3 with a 3.47 ERA over his previous six starts.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who is pitching in Pittsburgh for the first time in his career, is 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates. Clemens has won games in 32 different stadiums over his 22-year career.
PNC Park is the only current stadium Clemens has never pitched in.
“He’s probably the greatest pitcher of all-time,” Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. “I’d come out to see him. I’m lucky enough to be playing in a game against him. If people have lived in Pittsburgh their whole lives and never seen Roger Clemens pitch, you definitely want to go to this game and see what he does so well and what he brings to the game.”
Astros starters have a 1.01 ERA over the last five games. Rookie Wandy Rodriguez became the latest to flourish when he gave up one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 6-1 victory over Milwaukee on Sunday.
“Wandy did a super job today and that was huge for us,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “Our pitching has done a marvelous job the last six games. You have to feel good any time they pitch, but I’d like to see our offense come around a little.”
Astros catcher Brad Ausmus believes the offense will come through over the final 13 games of the season.
“We knew our pitching staff was the backbone of the team,” Ausmus said. “The question mark is our hitting. It isn’t over yet. We’ve still got two weeks to go, and the offense has to come around. We’re day to day with our offense.”
Houston extended its lead in the NL wild-card race to 1 1/2 games over Philadelphia with Sunday’s win. The Astros play 11 of their final 13 games against teams with losing records.
Pittsburgh rookie Ian Snell will oppose Clemens. The 23-year-old Snell is making his fifth career major-league start and the fourth this season.
“It’s something that you always wanted to do when you were young,” said Snell about his matchup with Clemens. “He is probably the best in the business right now. It’s an honor to pitch against him.”
The right-hander surrendered four runs and five hits over four innings and did not receive a decision in a 5-4 loss at St. Louis last Tuesday. Snell is 0-2 with an 11.45 ERA over his three starts this season.
The Pirates won for the fourth time in five games with a 9-7 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday. Pittsburgh is 6-7 since Pete Mackanin took over as interim manager on Sept. 6 after Lloyd McClendon was fired.