10/22/2004 2:15 AM ET
Clemens thankful for special year
Rocket gracious in defeat after taking loss in Game 7
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
|Roger Clemens will make the tour to Japan with the MLB All-Stars this November. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
ST. LOUIS -- The Astros had the man they wanted on the mound for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Astros, this was one of those rare nights when Roger Clemens didn't come through with a victory for Houston.
Clemens took the loss after giving up four runs on six hits in six innings. The right-hander did not walk a batter and struck out two, but was burned by an RBI double by Albert Pujols and a two-run homer by Scott Rolen in the sixth inning that proved to be the difference.
"A lot of people were depending on this right arm to get the job done and it's disappointing to get so close to the World Series and not get it done," Clemens said. "I felt really good about our chances tonight. I felt good, I made some good pitches and they hit some good pitches. I tip my hat to the Cardinals, they're a great ballclub."
Clemens and Houston manager Phil Garner had a discussion on the mound before the pitch to Pujols.
"Roger's earned the right to put his two cents' worth in on any of those decisions," Garner said. "We talked about whether he wanted to go ahead and walk Pujols and pitch to Rolen, or if we wanted to try to make pitches on Pujols. We felt like we could make some good pitches on Pujols. We felt like Rolen was swinging the bat, as I alluded to earlier, starting to swing the bat well. We wanted to be very cautious with both guys.
"I thought we made some good pitches to Pujols and we made a bad pitch to Rolen; got too much of the plate and he made us pay for it."
Clemens said the pitch to Pujols was a little high and the one to Rolen was not quite where the pitcher wanted it.
|With six innings in Game 7 and 13 in the series, Roger Clemens jumped up to a fourth-place tie on the all-time LCS innings list:||Pitcher
|John Smoltz||95 1/3|
|Greg Maddux||85 1/3|
|Roger Clemens||75 1/3|
|Dave Stewart||75 1/3|
|Catfish Hunter||69 1/3|
|Orel Hershiser||65 1/3|
|Stewart's 75 1/3 innings lead the ALCS. Smoltz's 95 1/3 innings lead the NLCS.|
"Pujols hit a high ball. Not many guys can hit a pitch up there as hard as he did," Clemens said. "I thought Rolen was taking better swings throughout the night."
Pujols' double tied the game. Rolen gave the Cardinals the lead for good.
"Getting the opportunity to play in Game 7 against the best pitcher in the league for the last 20 years, Roger Clemens, he's amazing. It doesn't get any better than that," Pujols said.
The problem for the Astros was not Clemens' performance but an offense that was unable to register a base hit after the fourth inning. The offense was held scoreless in 14 of the last 16 innings of the series.
"Roger had us right in the ballgame," Garner said. "He gave us plenty of opportunities to stay ahead and add some on to it, and we weren't able to do it."
|With two strikeouts in Game 7 and nine in the series, Roger Clemens jumped up to second place on the all-time LCS strikeout list:||Pitcher
Clemens, who won 18 of 22 decisions during the regular season with a 2.98 ERA, was 2-1 in the postseason. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA in four career Game 7 starts.
"I'm extremely happy I didn't break down this year, because I couldn't afford to with all the guys we lost because of injuries," Clemens said. "Overall, it was a very special year. I was glad to come home and play in my hometown and help this team make the playoffs. It's unfortunate it has to end now, but it was still a very special season and I've really enjoyed being a part of this team.
"I'm very thankful that I had the opportunity to come home and pitch, and hopefully give a little experience, and leave a little something behind for the younger guys."
Clemens, who came out of retirement to sign a one-year deal with Houston, was asked if he had made any decision about next year.
"My thoughts and emotions right now are on this [series]. I'll leave that for later," he said. "I don't think this is the point in time for that."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.