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Clemens does his part in Game 410/11/2004 2:56 AM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- No one expected Roger Clemens to throw a shutout on three days' rest Sunday, and quite frankly, the Astros didn't need him to. They just needed him to absorb a few innings, let the offense do its thing and have the typically reliable bullpen take care of the rest. Clemens kept up his end of the bargain in Game 4 of the Division Series, even though it was obvious early that he was not in typical prime-time form. He left with a 5-2 lead after five, and added an RBI sacrifice fly, but ended up with a no-decision after the bullpen allowed four runs in a 6-5 Atlanta Braves win. Clemens was nowhere near as dominating as he was during his 18-win season or even in Game 1 of the Division Series. He rarely was ahead in the count and allowed a slew of baserunners during his five-inning, 87-pitch outing. But still, he held the Braves at bay during a game that could have marked the clincher to the Astros' first postseason win. The Rocket had two 1-2-3 innings -- his first and his last. In between, he allowed six hits, but the only two Braves runs were scored in the second, when Andruw Jones knocked in Chipper Jones on a base hit and Adam LaRoche plated the second on a 5-4-3 double play.
The Braves threatened in the fourth when Andruw Jones singled and LaRoche walked with one out. The runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, but Clemens stuck out Eli Marrero and coaxed a fly ball from Dewayne Wise to end the inning.Manager Phil Garner considered removing Clemens right then. "I basically begged my way to get out there for the fifth," Clemens said. "I felt good, considering what my body has been through the last week. I tried to be as stingy as I could." Clemens struck out two in his final inning. "I wasn't using my back leg," Clemens said. "My legs were trying to shut down on me. I think I was below pitch-speed, which I think made me effective. Sometimes you sacrifice velocity for movement, and I was able to move the ball around and make some pitches."
Garner did not consider sending Clemens out for the sixth."He was at the end of his road," Garner said. "As a matter of fact, he was on pure fumes. He got us through it. He had us in a good situation, we just couldn't stop it." Clemens had little success pitching on short rest in the past, but Garner never considered throwing in anyone else in what could have been a clinching Game 4. Garner was prepared that Clemens may only pitch a few innings, which, considering the past success of the bullpen, could have been enough. "If it was three innings that I was going to go out there and empty the tank, then that's what I was going to do," Clemens said. "Brad [Ausmus] and I went to our game plan accordingly. I felt great. Three days had nothing to do with it. "I had fun. There were some guys I needed to challenge, and I did. And there were times I needed to pitch."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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