Clemens gets his fifth shot at win No. 350 Monday when the slumping Yankees host the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a four-game series.
Clemens (1-3, 5.32 ERA) hasn’t won since his first start for the Yankees (37-41) on June 9 against Pittsburgh. He has lost all three of his starts since then, posting a 5.40 ERA in those outings.
The 44-year-old right-hander is trying to become the eighth pitcher to reach 350 career wins and the first since Warren Spahn pitched a shutout Sept. 29, 1963, with the Milwaukee Braves.
He threw five shutout innings in his last start on Wednesday, but ended up allowing four runs in six frames in a 4-0 loss in Baltimore. Clemens’ run of successive starts with at least one strikeout also ended at 200 - the third-longest such run by an active major leaguer, behind Pedro Martinez (293) and Javier Vazquez (237).
“It’s my fault. I’ve been in hundreds of those types of games,” said Clemens, who is second on the career strikeout list with 4,626, behind Nolan Ryan (5,714). “You just want to minimize what you’re doing out there and try to keep momentum. The way the game’s breaking down, you want to stay away from the big inning.”
Clemens is 23-13 with a 3.02 ERA in 43 career starts against the Twins. He gave up two runs in five innings of a 4-2 loss to them on June 22 last season while with Houston, ending a three-start winning streak against Minnesota.
He’s 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts against the Twins (42-38) at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees could certainly use a dominating performance from the future Hall of Famer on Monday. They have dropped nine of their last 11 games, including Sunday’s 11-5 loss to Oakland, and haven’t been under .500 this late in the season since Sept. 5, 1995, when they were 60-61.
Andy Pettitte was pounded for eight runs in just 1 2-3 innings on Sunday, and New York’s sputtering offense wasn’t able to close the early gap. The Yankees have scored just 11 runs in their last six completed games - they led 8-6 Thursday night in Baltimore when that game was suspended due to rain.
“It seems like every team that’s playing us is playing pretty good,” said Derek Jeter, who was one of three Yankees selected for the All-Star game along with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. “You try to stay positive but, yeah, it gets frustrating.”
Scott Proctor pitched 1 1-3 shutout innings for the Yankees one day after he burned his personal game equipment on the gravel outside the home dugout following a 7-0 loss.
The Yankees will look to get their offense going against Minnesota starter Boof Bonser (5-4, 4.65), who is trying to bounce back after a frustrating month. He went 1-3 with a 6.91 ERA in five June starts after going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in six May outings.
“Obviously, this month hasn’t been going my way. I have to go out there in another five days and try to turn stuff around,” he said. “I am in a slump. It is like when a hitter goes 0-for-10 or whatever. It’s a bad month.”
Bonser looked sharp through the first four innings of his last start, but unraveled and ended up allowing five runs in six innings of Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Toronto. He was pounded for seven runs in 4 1-3 innings in his only previous start against the Yankees, a 10-1 home loss on April 10.
The Twins lost for the first time in four games Sunday, falling 1-0 to Detroit. Minnesota outhit the Tigers 6-3, but wasted Scott Baker’s first career complete game.
Reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau returned to first base after serving as the designated hitter for three games following his return from a bruised right lung. He went 1-for-4 with a double.
Morneau, Torii Hunter and starter Johan Santana were all selected to represent the Twins at the All-Star game. Reliever Pat Neshek is one of five players who can still be added to the team via internet fan balloting.
The Yankees have won 13 of their last 15 regular-season home games against the Twins and won two of three against them in Minnesota April 9-11.