Astros 2, Marlins 1
With seven shutout innings from Clemens and an offensive outburst—by the Astros’ feeble standards, that is—they broke an 11-game road losing streak Monday and beat the Florida Marlins 2-1.
Orlando Palmeiro, who came into the game with one RBI, drove in both runs. Houston has scored 11 runs in seven starts by Clemens (2-1), who won for the first time since April 8.
“Once we got the two runs, it felt like a lot,” the Rocket said. “You just try not to make any mistakes.”
The Astros improved to 2-14 on the road, winning away from Houston for the first time since April 15. They bounced back from a 16-0 loss Sunday at Atlanta, their sixth consecutive defeat.
Clemens earned his 20th win with the Astros and the 330th of his career, moving him ahead of Steve Carlton into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time list.
“It means a lot,” Clemens said. “It definitely puts in perspective what type of career Carlton had.”
The start was Clemens’ first in Miami since the 2003 World Series, a game touted then as the last of his career. That game drew 65,934 fans. Attendance for Clemens’ return was 20,539.
The 42-year-old right-hander outpitched A.J. Burnett, allowing just four hits and stranding four runners at second base to lower his ERA to 1.10. He has yet to allow a run on the road in 21 innings.
“He’s fantastic,” manager Phil Garner said. “He has pitched like this every game. Tonight we put a couple of runs on the board and it stood up.”
Burnett (3-3) struck out nine in seven innings but was hurt by a wild pitch and the only walk he allowed.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” he said. “You go up against the best, you want to beat the best. But I don’t think I threw any pitches I’d take back.”
Florida went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. With Marlins at second, Clemens ended threats by retiring Alex Gonzalez in the second, Paul Lo Duca in the fourth, Juan Encarnacion in the sixth and Juan Pierre in the seventh.
“You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities, because you’re not going to get many against a guy like him,” Lo Duca said. “He has a knack for turning it up when he needs to. That’s what makes him a special pitcher.”
Along with their second defeat in a row, the Marlins lost second baseman Luis Castillo. He strained his left thigh running out a bunt in the sixth inning and left the game, and he’s expected to miss at least one game.
Burnett set the tone for the anticipated pitcher’s duel in the first inning, when he reached 99 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. But the Astros, ranked last in the NL in hits and home runs, scratched out a run in the second.
Morgan Ensberg led off with a walk, stole second and took third when Burnett broke a curve into the dirt for a wild pitch. Palmeiro then lobbed an RBI single over the drawn-in infield.
“It hardly hit the outfield grass,” Garner said. “But it was as good as a home run for me.”
Houston added a run in the seventh when Jose Vizcaino tripled and came home on Palmeiro’s sacrifice fly.
“We knew it would be low-scoring going in,” catcher Brad Ausmus said. “In a game like that, I’ll take the Rocket against anyone.”
Clemens singled in the second and finished 1-for-3, dropping his average to .357. … He improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Marlins. … Pierre led of the sixth with his sixth bunt hit. … RHP Russ Springer retired one batter for the Astros, extending his scoreless streak to nine innings. … Florida’s Lenny Harris singled off the bench for the second game in a row, extending his major league record of pinch hits to 196.