Now that the seven-time Cy Young winner has gotten on a roll, he’ll try to end the Houston Astros’ losing streak and once again defeat the Cubs when the teams continue their three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.
The Astros (57-61) lost Monday’s series opener 3-0, and have dropped three straight games to drop four games behind Cincinnati for the NL wild card.
Houston managed just four hits off of Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano on Monday, but Willy Taveras extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games with a single. The Astros center fielder is batting .348 (24-for-69) during his run.
Luke Scott also went 2-for-4, and is batting .424 (36-for-85) in 26 games since being called up from Triple-A Round Rock on July 14.
Houston has not lost four in a row since June 26-30—just after Clemens (4-4, 2.24 ERA) made his first start of the season on June 22. His ERA leads all National League starters since that date.
The 44-year-old right-hander has allowed four runs in 13 innings to win his last two starts. Those victories over Arizona and Pittsburgh were his first over teams other than Chicago this season. He has yielded two runs or fewer eight times in 10 outings.
“I don’t think we should even take his age into consideration,” Morgan Ensberg said of Clemens. “I don’t know why that constantly comes up. The fact of the matter is, the guy has special ability. He consistently goes out there and doesn’t give up any runs.”
Clemens allowed just one run and four hits in six innings of a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday, and once again his offense failed to give him much run support.
The Astros provided Clemens with just two runs of support while he was pitching on Thursday, and have scored three runs or fewer for him in six of his starts.
“The fact that we have not been able to score him runs is something that I can’t quite explain,” Ensberg said.
Houston’s offense has scored seven runs for Clemens in his two games against Chicago (50-68) this season, but the future Hall of Famer didn’t need much help.
Clemens has allowed two runs and seven hits in 11 innings in the wins over the Cubs. He is 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 10 career starts against Chicago.
While Clemens is the active leader with 345 career wins, Tuesday’s Chicago starter Juan Mateo (1-0, 2.57 ERA) has one victory in his brief career.
Mateo won his major league debut on Aug. 3 over Arizona, giving up three runs and six hits in five innings.
In his second career appearance, the 23-year-old right-hander allowed two runs and two hits in two innings of relief of an 8-6 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, but did not factor in the decision.
Monday’s win was the second straight for the Cubs, who have won four of their last five over the Astros.
After striking out seven of his previous 10 at-bats, first baseman Phil Nevin went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs on Monday. Nevin, who played for Houston as a rookie in 1995, is batting .393 (11-for-28) with three homers in 12 games against the Astros this season.