The Rocket, however, simply needed a little time to get warmed
Clemens escaped that jam by allowing only one run, and went on
to complete seven strong innings for his 334th win in the Houston
Astros' 6-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday.
"It was big to get out of that down just 1-0," Clemens said.
"I was very fortunate."
Morgan Ensberg backed Clemens with a three-run homer in the
third, and the Astros scored three more runs in the seventh with
the help of some terrible Colorado defense to complete a three-game
sweep of the Rockies.
The Astros got their fourth sweep of the year against the
last-place Rockies, who have lost five straight and eight of nine.
Clemens (6-3) allowed two runs and five hits, struck out four
and walked two, lowering his major league-leading ERA to 1.51 -- the
lowest of his 21-year career through his first 15 starts. The
Rocket, ninth on the career wins list, has won three straight
decisions for the first time this season.
"You can't miss opportunities to score like that against him,"
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "They don't come around very
much with him on the mound."
Jason Jennings (4-8) allowed six runs and five hits in seven
innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Clemens got off to a surprisingly rough start against one of the
league's worst offenses, allowing the Rockies to load the bases
with no outs in the second.
"Rocket getting out of that bases-loaded jam with only one run
was a big momentum shift, too," Astros manager Phil Garner said.
"He was just absolutely fantastic."
Following two quick outs to start the third, Craig Biggio was
hit by a pitch and Lance Berkman singled. Ensberg followed with a
404-foot shot to left that bounced hard off the brick wall behind
the left-field fence.
Ensberg leads NL third basemen with 17 homers, a year after
hitting only 10. He didn't hit a home run last year until July 2.
"I'm constantly making adjustments," said Ensberg, who tied
the club mark for homers by a third baseman in the first half of
the season. "I'm just doing a better job of identifying pitches."
After Ensberg's homer, Jennings retired the next 11 batters but
finally fell apart in the seventh.
Chris Burke singled, Brad Ausmus doubled and Jennings
intentionally walked pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro to load the
bases. Jennings threw a wild pitch that allowed Burke to score from
third, and Ausmus scored when Closser threw the ball away into the
Biggio followed those two gaffes with a run-scoring double to
push Houston's lead to 6-2.
Jennings was then replaced by Jay Witasick. Jennings, a
26-year-old Dallas native and former Baylor star, dropped to 0-3
with a 13.79 ERA in three career starts against Houston.
"I just tried to go out and keep it as close as possible with
[Clemens] on the mound," Jennings said. "Good teams seem to find
a way to win ... we seem to find a way to mess it up."
Houston has won six straight and nine of its last 10
against Colorado. ... Biggio was twice hit by pitches, bumping his
career total to 266. He needs to be plunked only once more to tie
Don Baylor's modern-era mark of 267. ... Rockies OF Brad Hawpe
turned 26. ... Colorado dropped to 3-15 at Minute Maid Park, its
worst record at any NL park. The Rockies haven't won a series in
Houston since April 1995 at the Astrodome.