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In big matchup, Rocket bests Bonds
04/08/2004 12:45 AM ET
HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens got the best of Barry Bonds on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

"Next time it will be my turn," Bonds said after he went 0-for-2 and whiffed twice on called third strikes against Clemens, the winning pitcher, as the Astros pounded the Giants, 10-1.

Next time the two teams meet isn't until Sept. 21 in San Francisco. By then, Bonds may be on the tail of Babe Ruth in the all-time homer race, rather than right behind Willie Mays. Stuck on 659, Bonds is 55 behind the Babe and only one behind his godfather. Hank Aaron is the leader with 755.

Next up, the Giants open San Diego's PETCO Park and begin a three-game series against the Padres on Thursday night.

It was the first time in Major League Baseball history that a pitcher with 300 victories faced a hitter with 600 homers and Clemens, a hometown product, didn't disappoint the Houston fans in his initial appearance since signing with the Astros this offseason. Clemens is 41 years old and Bonds is 39.

   Roger Clemens  /   P
Born: 08/04/62
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"You can sense the competition when he steps in there," Clemens said. "I want to get him out in the worst way. He wants to hit a home run, hit the ball hard. I put something on the ball and hit my spots. That's how you get great hitters out."

The right-hander threw 14 pitches in all to the lefty-hitting Bonds, who swung at only two -- a ground ball foul down the right-field line in the fourth inning and a swinging strike two in the seventh.

Bonds obviously took the remainder of the pitches, including a first-inning intentional walk with two out and a runner on second, and those called third strikes in the fourth and the seventh.

Bonds, though, thought that home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro gave Clemens a wide berth on his strike calls.

"Roger knows what happened out there, that's all that matters," Bonds said. "Him and I have been in this game a long time. That's part of baseball, though."

Giants manager Felipe Alou said that Clemens got respect from the umpires in his first-ever National League game after 20 years in the American League with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. Clemens, after all, tied Tom Seaver with 311 career wins and with 4,108 strikeouts, is now only 28 behind Steve Carlton for second on the all-time list.

"He got some pretty good calls," Alou said. "He put some pitches in the gray area. A pitcher like him is going to get those calls when he's throwing strikes. Had he been wild, they would've been called balls."

Clemens reared back and brought his fastball as hard as 96 miles per hour and stayed mostly in the 93-to-95 mph range as he allowed one hit and struck out nine in seven innings.

He got Bonds pretty much on straight fastballs during that six-pitch at-bat in the fourth inning, when Bonds took a full-count pitch that appeared a tad low and away for a called third strike. In the seventh, when Bonds went down on four pitches, Clemens took a little something off the fastball and nipped him on a pitch down the middle, but a little high in the zone for his final strikeout of the game.

"You want to see Barry do what he does, but it was a great matchup," said Giants catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who knows Clemens well from his days with the Minnesota Twins. "I don't know about some of those pitches. I haven't seen the replay. The umpire thought they were strikes, so he rung him up. You've got to tip your cap to Roger. He made the pitches when he had to."

   Barry Bonds  /   LF
Born: 07/24/64
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Bonds hit homer No. 659 in the eighth inning of the season opener Monday night. Since then he has gone 1-for-6 with two intentional walks and the pair of strikeouts.

Coming into the game, Bonds and Clemens had only faced each other once in their eventual Hall of Fame careers -- June 2, 2002, in an Interleague affair at Yankee Stadium. Bonds walked three times -- two intentionally -- and was hit in the hand by a pitch. Clemens won that game, too, pitching eight innings of two-run, seven-hit ball, while striking out nine.

Bonds' free-pass streak against Clemens went to five consecutive plate appearances after that first-inning intentional walk. It abruptly came to an end three innings later.

"Sometimes Roger will come after me and sometimes he won't," Bonds said. "But he's great and that's the bottom line. We have a lot of fun out there. We're just competing against each other. Roger's got six Cy Youngs. I've got six MVPs. We're both up in age. We're both going to struggle at times. We're both playing against the odds and doing a pretty good job at it."

"He's going to get the best out of anyone, including me," Clemens said. "He's going to get my best fastball. He's going to get your attention. It's the way I felt when I was 30 and it's the way I feel when I'm 40. If you didn't get your sleep last night, too bad for you because I'm going to come get you."

Bonds said he got plenty of sleep Tuesday night. But Wednesday, Clemens did get him.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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