Dodgers 3, Astros 1
Alvarez outpitched the six-time Cy Young winner, and batterymate Paul Lo Duca tuned up for his second straight All-Star game with a three-run homer to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
“It’s an honor to beat him. This is a day I have to celebrate, because you don’t see that every day,” said Alvarez, who made his big league debut in 1989.
“When you face a guy like that, it’s like, `Hey, I’m facing The Man. I’m facing Clemens. I’m facing one of the best.’ When you pitch against a guy like that, it’s all motivation. He is somebody I always looked up to.”
Alvarez (3-3), making his second spot start since Hideo Nomo went on the disabled list, allowed a run and three hits in six-plus innings.
Eric Gagne pitched two perfect innings—striking out Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent in order in the ninth—for his 23rd save this season, and 86th in his last 87 attempts. The reigning NL Cy Young winner also broke Jeff Shaw’s club record for saves with his 130th.
Gagne, heading to his third straight All-Star game, had only one two-inning save during his record streak of 84 in a row, which ended last Monday night against Arizona.
Clemens (10-3) allowed three runs and four hits over seven innings and struck out eight in his first game at Dodger Stadium. He received a warm reception from the crowd of 46,321 as he walked to the mound for the first inning.
Clemens gave up just two hits before the tide turned in the sixth, thanks to the pesky Dave Roberts, who leads the Dodgers with 28 stolen bases. He coaxed a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch and swiped second after several throws to first by Clemens.
“You just try and wear him out, if you can,” Clemens said. “Those two guys, Roberts and (Cesar) Izturis, can do a lot of things, so it’s to your advantage to keep them off base,” Clemens said. “I can compare them to those first two guys with Florida in the World Series last year. They can cause you some trouble.”
Izturis followed with a bloop double just inside the right-field line, and Lo Duca cranked the next pitch into the left-field bullpen for his second home run in three days against the Astros.
It was the eighth homer for Lo Duca, one more than he had last season, and will give him much to talk about at Tuesday’s All-Star gala at Houston when he and Clemens become teammates for a day.
“The home runs don’t beat you. What beats you are the walks, especially when the games are close and you know you’ve got to minimize the damage,” Clemens said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that.”
The 10-time All-Star, who has had five successful sacrifice bunts in his career, bunted into a double play started by first baseman Shawn Green in the third inning after a leadoff walk to Brad Ausmus.
Milton Bradley drew a leadoff walk in the Dodgers’ second inning, stole second on the next pitch and advanced on a groundout. But he was held at third by coach Glenn Hoffman on Jayson Werth’s flyball to right fielder Berkman—who made an accurate throw to the plate—and Robin Ventura grounded out.
Lo Duca, who looked bad striking out in his first career regular-season at-bat against Clemens, lined an opposite-field double down the right-field line leading off the fourth. But the 41-year-old right-hander, who has more strikeouts than anyone in history except Nolan Ryan, fanned Bradley, Green and Werth in succession on 18 pitches.
“He’s a competitor,” said Ventura, who played on the same All-Star team with Clemens in 1992 and with the Yankees in 2002-03. “Even though he’s older, he still throws hard, he still hits his spots and he still gets up for every game. So that’s all you can ask. A lot of people wrote him off when he went to Toronto, but look at what he’s done since then.”
Meanwhile, Alvarez is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in seven starts this season. He was lifted in the seventh to a standing ovation after giving up a walk and a single by Berkman with none out and was relieved by Guillermo Mota.
Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, but Izturis went deep in the hole at shortstop to field Ausmus’ grounder and gotthe force at third on Berkman.
Clemens’ Dodger Stadium debut made it 36 different ballparks that he’s pitched in during his 21-year major league career, including three stadiums hecompeted in only during All-Star games.