Just five days after engaging in a classic pitching duel, Roger Clemens and Victor Zambrano square off again as the New York Yankees open a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
The right-handers each tossed eight scoreless innings Wednesday, allowing a combined three hits, but neither figured in the decision as the Yankees won 1-0 in 12 innings.
Pitching on the heels of his 300th career victory, a 5-2 triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals on June 13 in which he also reached the 4,000-strikeout plateau, Clemens came tantalizingly close to the first no-hitter of his career. The Rocket took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning before Marlon Anderson singled to left with one out.
“I’ve never thrown one since I’ve been playing ball, and I got on the mound when I was 7,” said Clemens, the 21st pitcher to win 300 and third to strikeout 4,000. “If a no-hitter happens that’s great, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.”
“I really like to pitch in games like that,” he said. “It really keeps you in the game and helps you with your concentration.”
Zambrano is 2-2 with a 1.68 ERA since being recalled from Triple-A Durham on May 23, yielding only 18 hits over 37 1-3 innings during that stretch.
The Yankees have won eight of nine with Sunday’s 7-3, 11-inning victory over the New York Mets, sweeping the rain-shortened first installment of the Subway Series.
New York has rebounded nicely from an 8-0 loss to Houston on June 11 in which the Yanks were no-hit by a record six Astros pitchers.
The Devil Rays are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins, capped by Sunday’s 3-2 loss. Tampa Bay, which outhit Florida 9-2 in the series finale, has lost 17 of 20.
“That’s how it’s been all year,” Devil Rays first baseman Travis Lee said. “We have good pitching, no offense. We have good offense, no pitching. So we’ve just got to stick it together.”
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Devil Rays - 5th place, 20 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (7-4, 3.42 ERA). Opponents are hitting .235 and have an on-base percentage of .290 against Clemens, who has struck out an AL-leading 106 and walked 28 in 97 1-3 innings. He is 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 career starts against the Devil Rays.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Zambrano (3-4, 3.89 ERA). Zambrano is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA and one save in 14 career appearances, including five starts, against the Yankees.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Alfonso Soriano, .287 avg., 58 runs and 20 SBs; Soriano and Jason Giambi, 19 HRs; Giambi, 52 RBIs. Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .320 avg.; Aubrey Huff, 15 HRs, 43 RBIs and 42 runs; Carl Crawford, 17 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 5-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - RHP Clemens has not pitched a complete game in the regular season since May 28, 2000, a 2-0 loss to Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. … RHP Clemens is 6-1 with a 2.77 ERA in eight road starts this season and is 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA in eight night games. … 2B Soriano is batting .500 with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs in 22 career at-bats against RHP Zambrano. Devil Rays - RHP Zambrano has limited opponents to an .093 average (10-for-107) over his last four starts. … Since scoring a season-high 11 runs and pounding out a season-high 18 hits against the Yankees on Tuesday, the Rays have just five runs and 27 hits in losing five straight. … OF Baldelli is batting .226 (7-for-31) over his last 10 games, dropping his average from .332 to .320—the lowest it’s been since April 3 (.318).
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 24-12 on the road; Devil Rays - 13-21 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Contreras (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Joe Kennedy (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.
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