Astros Trample Giants 10-1|
HOUSTON - Hard to imagine a better homecoming for Roger Clemens. Looking nothing like a guy who had called it quits, Clemens dominated Barry Bonds and the Giants, holding them to one hit over seven scoreless innings in his Houston debut and pitching the Astros past San Francisco 10-1 Wednesday night.
Only Ray Durham's clean single to center field in the third inning prevented a most special night at Minute Maid Park from becoming a truly historic one.
Still, Clemens posted his 311th victory, tying former teammate and mentor Tom Seaver for 16th on the career list.
Not a bad comeback for a guy who retired — albeit for only 78 days — after last season. At that time, it appeared the standing ovation he drew from Florida Marlins (news) players and fans in Game 4 of the World Series (news - web sites) would be his farewell.
Instead, a sellout crowd of 42,863 that included former President Bush (news - web sites) and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, plus family members and friends in Clemens' suite, began cheering even before the first pitch of his NL debut.
Pitching just 20 minutes from his house, the setting was certainly different as the 41-year-old Rocket launched his 21st season after stops with Boston, Toronto and the New York Yankees (news).
But while it looked and sounded different — a star on his cap and "Deep in the Heart of Texas" playing during the seventh-inning stretch — it was vintage Clemens on the mound.
And this, too: He delivered a hit-and-run single in his first at-bat.
Clemens pitched Houston to its first win of the season, a day after fellow former Yankees hurler Andy Pettitte was hit hard in his Astros debut.
Clemens struck out nine, including Bonds looking twice at 94 mph fastballs. Bonds left town with 659 home runs, still one behind his godfather, Willie Mays, for third place on the career list.
Bonds drew an intentional walk the first time he came to the plate, flipping aside his elbow guard when the count went to 2-0. The next time up, Bonds dropped his bat after a 3-2 pitch and headed toward first, only to hear plate umpire Mike DiMuro call strike three.
Clemens blew away pitcher Jerome Williams (0-1) for career strikeout No. 4,100 to open the third, beginning a string in which he struck out nine of 14 batters.
Clemens drew a standing ovation when he took the mound after fireworks shot off to the words "rockets' red glare" in the national anthem. Durham lined the first pitch foul and wound up drawing one of Clemens' three walks.
"His experience of pitching in so many big games will help him control his emotions," Ryan said as the Astros took batting practice. "Starting in the World Series last year, thinking it was his last start, I'm sure he's glad to be back out there."
"There are a lot of expectations and a lot of fanfare — Barry's situation, a large environment. But I would expect he'd do well."
Did he ever.
Clemens had played at this park previously, pitching the opener at then-Enron Field in 2000 when the Astros took on the Yankees in an exhibition game. This one counted for real, and Clemens was at his best.
The Houston hitters made it easy, too.
Jeff Bagwell hit his 420th career homer and drove in three runs, Jeff Kent hit a three-run homer and Richard Hidalgo also connected.
Craig Biggio doubled twice and scored each time as the Astros took a 4-0 lead after three innings. He later added an RBI single.
The Giants finished with four hits.
Notes:@ The Giants were trying to complete a season-opening, three-game sweep on the road for the third straight year. ... The Astros avoided their first 0-3 start since 1993. ... The cap Clemens wore in his final start for the Yankees and dirt from the mound in Florida are on display at the Hall of Fame. They are part of an exhibit on the 2003 postseason, and were never billed as items from his final major league appearance. The souvenirs will remain in the Cooperstown collection. "They are part of the timeline in Roger Clemens' Hall of Fame career," Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.