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Notes: Clemens to start Game 410/08/2004 7:33 PM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The last time Roger Clemens pitched on three days' rest, he allowed five earned runs over five innings and lost. But that was more than two years ago, and it occurred in April -- a month that invokes far less intensity for a Major League pitcher than October. So no one is worried that Clemens will not be able to shoulder the load in what could be a decisive Game 4 of the Division Series on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Not manager Phil Garner, not catcher Brad Ausmus and probably not Clemens himself, although he declined to comment on the situation until after he received the final word from his skipper, which as of midafternoon on Friday, he hadn't. But Garner confirmed that he will turn to Clemens on Sunday, four days after the Rocket threw 117 pitches and walked six during the Astros' 9-3 win over the Braves in Game 1. "I spoke with Roger last night, and Roger feels that he can come back," Garner said. "He's going to prepare to come back on Sunday and I will plan to use him on Sunday."
Clemens has had mixed results pitching on short rest. He is 6-4 with a 4.74 ERA over 11 career starts in such situations, and has been everything from masterful -- he threw a complete game his first time in June 1987 -- to disastrous, such as his six-run, 3 2/3-inning outing in August 1993.
But it's safe to say Clemens would be the unanimous choice to start Game 4 if his teammates had a vote."I think it's great," Ausmus said. "He and Roy [Oswalt] are our horses. I think it's the right move, to have Roger come back on three days' rest. I would assume Roy would probably come back on three days' rest for Monday. I think three days or four days of rest, we have every bit of confidence in every one of those guys." Even if Clemens hasn't had much success on short rest in the past? "He didn't really have that much success in the first game of the playoffs, either, but we won that one," Ausmus said. "I'm not going to worry about it." Phonegate: While Garner understands why Braves manager Bobby Cox was displeased with the delay during the seventh inning of Thursday's game in Atlanta, the Astros skipper took exception to Cox's accusation that Garner concocted the bullpen phone story to give Brad Lidge more time to warm up. Garner insisted Lidge was already warmed up and ready to enter the game, so there was no need to buy more time.
"He questioned my integrity," Garner said. "There are ways to stall. You throw to first base a couple times ... I felt like Brad was ready. I'd had him [warming] up in enough time. I can tell you for a fact that the phones did not work."This is not the first time the bullpen phone has not worked. This was just the first time it happened in a ballpark where there are no sightlines from the dugout to the bullpen.
"It's the third time it's happened to us this summer," Garner said. "It's strange. It happened in St. Louis. The difference was you can see the bullpen so we're waving down there and they give us the sign that he's [warmed up]. So it ended up being a non-issue."It happened in our own ballpark. Unfortunately, it happened on the weekend and the technician had to wait until Monday before he got back to get it fixed. We were using walkie-talkies." Cox, whose protest was obviously dropped when the Braves won the game, appeared to soften his stance upon arriving to Houston on Friday. "Phones get slammed once in a while, especially in bullpens and dugouts," he said. "It was probably off the hook. It's happened to me before. In the old ballparks, [like] Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the phone was always breaking down. "You can't really see the bullpens down there. I'd have to go to the umpire and tell him, 'Look, it's not working. We may have to have some extra time here because we can't communicate down there.' So ... it was legit." Who's on third? Morgan Ensberg started Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series, and it appears the right-handed hitting third baseman will continue to see more playing time over Mike Lamb through the playoffs. This is no indication, however, that Garner has lost faith in Lamb. In fact, the skipper prefers to have Lamb as his first option off the bench during a run-scoring opportunities late in games. "I have not lost confidence in Mike Lamb," Garner said. "I put him in a situation last night to win a ballgame, and I will do that again. I have started Morgan Ensberg because he's been swinging the bat quite well-- actually, very well. So I think it's better off to start him. But I will use Mike Lamb in game-winning situations again." Odds and ends: The Astros don't know what to expect score-wise on Saturday, but they have a pretty good idea about one thing: Minute Maid Park will be loud. A standing-room-only crowd is expected, and after spending two days in the unfriendly confines of Turner Field, the Astros are thrilled to be home. "We're happy to be home and not have to listen to the tomahawk chant anymore," Ausmus said. "We know that 43,000 will be rooting for us." ... The Astros have an 18-game home winning streak on the line entering Saturday's game, and Garner is hopeful the crowd will key Houston on to a 19th. "I can't say enough [about] last Sunday, when we clinched," Garner said. "It was deafening and it was very exciting. I think it does help us." ... Carlos Beltran is still nursing the bruise on his rib cage, but looks forward to swinging from the left side of the plate against righty John Thomson on Saturday. Beltran feels more pain when he bats from the right side, which he had to do for the majority of Thursday's game when lefty Mike Hampton was on the mound.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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