07/13/2004 9:23 PM ET
Rockets against Rocket in first
American League's bats launch against Clemens
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|Roger Clemens wipes his face after giving up a three-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in the first. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Soriano's homer: 56K | 350K
Manny takes Clemens deep: 56K | 350K
HOUSTON -- Rockets against the Rocket. And history against him instead of for him.
That is how the All-Star Game started Tuesday night in what was supposed to be one of the crowning moments in the career of a legend.
Boxing icon Muhammad Ali had just been on the field taking part in the ceremonial first pitch, but even he would have been hard-pressed to come up with the type of knockout punch the American League put on Astros right-hander Roger Clemens in the top of the first.
The American League got the game off to a most rousing start, marking the first time a team has hit for the cycle in one inning of All-Star play.
It was also the first time a team has had a double, triple and homer in an inning of an All-Star Game.
The barrage included two homers (the 14th time in All-Star history that has occurred), a triple, a double and a single while putting the National League in a 6-0 hole before they ever took a swing.
"I was kidding all week about scoring five or six off him in the first inning, never dreaming it was ever possible," said AL manager Joe Torre, who was with Clemens in New York for five seasons.
Ichiro Suzuki set the tone by leading off with a double over the head of right fielder Sammy Sosa. Then it was Ivan Rodriguez's turn to elude Sosa, smashing an RBI triple off the wall in right.
Houston native Clemens briefly settled down, fielding a grounder back to the box by Vladimir Guerrero. But Manny Ramirez pressed the foot right back down on the accelerator for his mates, belting a two-run homer to left on an 0-2 pitch. It was Ramirez's first home run in an All-Star Game.
The Rocket struck out Alex Rodriguez and would have been out of the inning on a grounder to second by Jason Giambi. However, Jeff Kent's error kept it alive for the AL. Derek Jeter added to the misery against his former teammate, lining a single to right to complete the cycle.
"Any time you're facing a guy like Rocket, you don't anticipate scoring that many runs," said Jeter. "It was probably tough for him to pitch, because I'm sure there were a lot of emotions."
Jeter's single set the stage for Alfonso Soriano to put an exclamation point on he inning, launching a three-run homer to left to make it 6-0.
It ended up being one and done for Clemens, as he allowed five hits and three earned runs while striking out two. The six-time Cy Young Award winner threw 35 pitches in the inning. It was a far cry from the last All-Star appearance for Clemens in Houston, when he threw three perfect innings in 1986 to land the MVP award.
The six-run first inning was the most runs scored in an inning in an All-Star Game since the AL scored seven runs in the third inning on July 6, 1983, at Chicago's Comiskey Park.
Giants pitcher Atlee Hammaker gave up seven runs (all earned) on six hits during the third inning of that game 21 years ago. The big blow was the first-ever All-Star grand slam, struck by Fred Lynn of the Angels. Hammaker lasted two-thirds of an inning, and he left with a 9-1 AL lead on the way to a 13-3 rout.
Even a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Clemens can be prone to such an onslaught.
"He was behind in the count," said Pudge Rodriguez. "But that's the way baseball is sometimes. He's still the best pitcher in the game and I just wish him the best in the second half."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.