Clemens was foiled again by a lack of run support and his ailing
back, and Jack Wilson homered off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning to
give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 1-0 victory Saturday night over the
Houston Astros.Clemens allowed two hits in eight shutout innings, lowering his
major league-leading ERA to an incredible 1.32. He struck out nine
and walked none, but the Astros couldn't muster any offense against
Kip Wells and two relievers.Clemens said his back -- which he said he injured while moving
furniture at his home in late July -- prevented him from coming out
for the ninth inning."I'm getting by," he said. "I know the results are looking
good, but I want to get to a point where my body feels good without
hurting something and then have to miss a start. I don't want that
to happen."Clemens said he needed "to get off this medicine that's tearing
my ..." before stopping himself. He would not say what medication
he was taking, and then quickly said the medicine was not causing
the problem.It was the ninth no-decision for the 43-year-old Clemens, and
the sixth time the Astros have failed to score for him. He threw an
economical 88 pitches but has not gone longer than eight innings
this season.Salomon Torres (3-4) worked a scoreless eighth, and Jose Mesa
struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances.Wilson homered to left leading off the ninth against Lidge
(3-3), his seventh."As hitters, we got dominated," Wilson said. "This is lucky.
[Clemens] absolutely shoved it down our throats. That's why you
give all the credit to Kip for keeping it close."Six of Clemens' strikeouts came in the first four innings. The
seven-time Cy Young Award winner did not allow a baserunner until
the fifth, when Rob Mackowiak led off with a single that rolled
past the outstretched glove of second baseman Craig Biggio.By the sixth inning, Clemens had more hits than the Pirates
after slapping his second single to right field. That hit and his
single in the fourth each moved Brad Ausmus to third, but rookie
Willy Taveras grounded out to end both innings.It was an unusually poor night for Taveras, who leads all
rookies with 131 hits. He also had an inning-ending grounder to
shortstop in the second after the Astros loaded the bases."This is tough. We got such great pitching from Rocket,"
Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We had opportunities but
couldn't get them across the board. That's tough."Garner said Clemens told him he wanted to come out after the
eighth.Wells, a Houston-area native just like Clemens, allowed six hits
and walked four in seven innings before he was relieved by Torres.
The Astros stranded 11 runners."We battled probably one of the greatest pitchers of all-time
and we didn't embarrass ourselves," Pirates manager Lloyd
McClendon said. "He dominated us, but at least we didn't embarrass
ourselves."Clemens is 8-1 since May and has allowed just 13 earned runs
during that span.The Rocket briefly retired two years ago and nearly did so again
after last season. But the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner
returned to make $18 million this season, his 24th in the majors.
It is the biggest salary ever for a pitcher and the largest
one-year contract in baseball history."It's just disappointing," Clemens said. "I don't like coming
out of those and putting Brad in that situation. I know he loves
those situations, too. But when it doesn't work out ... you hate to
come out on the short end of it."
Clemens stayed stuck on 339 career wins. He was also hit by
a pitch in the second inning for the first time in his career. ...
Clemens remained unbeaten in five career starts against the
Pirates. ... Pirates RF Jason Bay has reached base safely in 28
straight games. ... It was the second time this season the Pirates
have beaten Lidge. They also did it on May 4.