Roger Clemens has already cemented himself as one of baseball’s all-time greats. His next victory will add yet another accomplishment to his already impressive resume.
Clemens looks to record his 350th career win on Thursday afternoon as the Yankees try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the surging Colorado Rockies.
Clemens (1-1, 3.65 ERA) has pitched well in each of his first two starts, allowing five runs and 12 hits in 12 1-3 innings while walking three and striking out 15.
The 44-year-old allowed two runs, seven hits and one walk in 6 1-3 innings Friday in a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets. With eight strikeouts, he retook second place on the career list with 4,619, five more than Arizona’s Randy Johnson.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner is one win shy of becoming the first major leaguer to reach 350 since Warren Spahn pitched a shutout Sept. 29, 1963, with the Milwaukee Braves.
“Everything’s a blessing for me since I tipped my cap three or four years ago, whenever it was, and I was real comfortable with (possible retirement),” Clemens said. “Since then, I’m glad I left that percentage point open and I’ve been very blessed. A lot of neat things have come my way since.”
The Yankees’ bats were held in check for the second straight game Wednesday in a 6-1 loss.
“We haven’t scored. We haven’t hit,” New York’s Derek Jeter said. “We aren’t swinging the bats. It’s tough to pitch when you don’t have any runs. We haven’t been able to string some hits together. It’s weird because we were swinging the bats pretty good before we got here.”
New York (35-34) has hit .185 (12-for-65) with two runs scored in this series after it had 19 runs and 26 hits in the previous two contests.
“That’s the mysteries of baseball,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Things that you can’t really explain happen. As quickly as we fell into this thing, we can fall out of it.”
The loss dropped the Yankees 10 games behind AL East-leading Boston.
This will be Clemens’ fourth career start at Coors Field, where he is 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA. The only other time he faced the Rockies in pinstripes was on June 20, 2002, when he recorded a no-decision in a 14-11 loss, a game in which he allowed two runs and five hits over four innings.
“You can’t say enough about the pitching,” Holliday said. “Our pitching has kept us in games and our bullpen has been unbelievable. When you’re getting that kind of pitching, you’ll win a lot of games.”
The Rockies (36-33) won a club record sixth straight series and improved to 8-0-1 in their last nine, the best stretch in franchise history. They’re a major league-best 19-7 since May 22.
Colorado is three games over .500 for the first time since July 7, when it was 44-41.
Rodrigo Lopez (3-0, 2.90) is no stranger to the Yankees, having made 19 starts against them during the previous five seasons with Baltimore. The right-hander is 7-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 23 lifetime appearances versus New York.
“It’s a challenge,” Lopez said of facing the Yankees. “They can do damage early or late. They’re always tough to get out.”
Lopez has been very consistent for Colorado, allowing three earned runs or less in each of his seven starts. He limited Tampa Bay to two runs and eight hits over six innings Friday in a 12-2 victory at Coors Field.
Jeter should be happy to see Lopez. He is hitting .446 (25-for-56) with four home runs against the right-hander, and has a hit in 22 straight interleague games.