That is, until his most recent outing when he finally got some run support, and now Clemens will try to beat the team his Houston Astros are chasing in the NL Central as he takes the mound at Minute Maid Park.
Clemens (1-2, 2.76 ERA) returned to the Astros (43-44) last month in hopes of getting them back to the World Series, something he helped them do last year by beating St. Louis with six strong innings in a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the NL championship series.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner lost his only start in the World Series and was a hard-luck loser in his first two starts this season, with the Astros failing to score a run in his 11 1-3 innings.
Houston was shut out nine times in 2005 when Clemens started.
“It’s not like we’re trying to get shut out,” Houston’s Lance Berkman said. “I guarantee you, if you took a poll of all the players here, we could care less who’s on the mound. We don’t get nervous when he pitches, we don’t try any harder and all the theories that have come out about it … We want to score runs every (game).”
Houston’s lineup finally helped him out Monday and the 43-year-old right-hander got his 342nd career win, striking out five as he allowed two runs and four hits in five innings of a 7-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“I know I’m on the fast track, but I still expect certain results,” Clemens said. “I think that’s the hardest thing I’ve got going right now.”
Clemens has allowed six runs and 13 hits while striking out 12 in 16 1-3 innings this season. He’s 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 12 career starts, including playoffs, against the Cardinals (46-39).
The teams have split the first two games of this series, with fourth-place Houston remaining four games behind division-leading St. Louis, and the Astros again find themselves struggling to score. They’ve managed only six runs in their last three games, and have failed to collect more than eight hits in five straight contests.
The Cardinals beat the Astros 8-2 on Friday after losing four of the first six games between the teams this season. It was just St. Louis’ fourth win in 17 games overall.
Rookie right-hander Anthony Reyes (1-3, 3.30) goes for his first career win over the Astros when he faces Clemens on Saturday.
Reyes has lost three straight decisions since beating the Kansas City Royals on May 20 in his first big league game of the season.
He failed to get a decision in a May 30 start against the Astros despite striking out seven and allowing three earned runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. St. Louis’ bullpen blew a two-run lead for Reyes in a 6-3 loss.
Reyes is coming off his worst start of the year, allowing five runs and a season-high three homers in five innings of Monday’s 6-3 defeat to the Atlanta Braves.
“I just felt like I was battling myself, trying to keep the ball down,” he said. “Just a couple pitches up in the zone … they didn’t come back.”
The Cardinals have lost 10 of their last 12 road games.
Berkman is hitting .379 (11-for-29) with two homers and nine RBIs in his last eight games against St. Louis. He went 2-for-4 Friday after a hitless opener Thursday.