The 22-year-old Sanchez, who was about 3 months old when Clemens made his major league debut in 1984, outdueled the seven-time Cy Young Award winner on Friday night to lead the Florida Marlins to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
Sanchez said he wasn’t nervous facing the 43-year-old Clemens. But he said his wife was probably nervous for him, just like when he won his major league debut in Yankee Stadium on June 25. Sanchez said his relatives were monitoring the game on the Internet from Venezuela.
“Today, everybody talked to me because everybody knows who is Roger Clemens. … I don’t know who was more excited,” Sanchez said. “I’m really happy. … He’s a great pitcher and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Sanchez (2-0) was making his third career start and first at Dolphin Stadium. He didn’t allow a hit until pinch-hitter Willy Taveras singled to lead off the sixth. Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits while striking out two and walking one.
“He just faced one of the all-time greatest pitchers and he beat him,” said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, Clemens’ former teammate with the New York Yankees. “It’s got to be a big win for him.”
The Marlins broke a three-game losing streak, while Houston has lost three of its last four road games.
Clemens (1-3), making his fifth start of the season, lasted five innings, giving up two runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts.
“I’m not here to be just OK,” Clemens said. “I should have matched that kid zeros for zeros. … For me, it’s just not acceptable.”
Clemens—referred to as “Mr. Cy Young” before the game by Girardi— entered the game with a 5-0 record against Florida, his most wins without a loss against any team. Clemens remains at 342 career wins, tied for eighth all-time with Tim Keefe.
Girardi said he instructed his hitters to try to wear down Clemens by being selective at the plate early in the game. It appeared that the young Marlins lineup listened to Clemens’ former catcher.
Clemens threw 53 pitches in the first two innings, and Abercrombie hit a two-run homer to left on an 0-1 pitch in the second. It was Abercrombie’s fifth homer of the season.
“I threw a flat slider,” Clemens said. “Anybody that plays the game of baseball is going to hit that and hit it hard.”
Despite Girardi’s strategy, Clemens said he could have thrown 140 pitches.
“The only positive I took out of it is that I didn’t get winded or didn’t get tired,” said Clemens, who threw 107 pitches.
Mike Jacobs went 3-for-3 with two singles and a double. He entered Thursday’s game hitting .356 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 28 games as the No. 3 hitter.
The Marlins added an insurance run in the eighth on Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly.
The Astros threatened in the sixth after Taveras singled and Mike Lamb got a ball past a diving Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. Sanchez helped himself by starting a double play on a grounder by Burke to get out of the jam.
“He showed some great athletic ability as a pitcher to get off the mound,” Girardi said. “A lot of pitchers would just go to first on that.”
Second base umpire Rick Reed was back at work Friday, a night after he left the game with a broken blood vessel in his nose.
Only 13,750 people were at Dolphin Stadium on a clear night to watch Clemens pitch.
Abercrombie entered the game hitting .217. … Sanchez was acquired in an offseason trade that brought Ramirez to Florida and sent RHP Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell to Boston. … OF Luke Scott was available for the Astros after being called up from Triple-A Round Rock to replace 3B Morgan Ensberg, who went on the DL with a bruised right shoulder. Scott was leading the Pacific Coast League with 20 homers … The Astros turned one double play to give them 110, tops in the majors.