07/14/2004 12:03 AM ET
AL triumphs after big start
First inning leads to home-field edge in Fall Classic
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- This wasn't exactly what Houston fans had in mind when they envisioned Roger Clemens starting the 75th All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
The crowd had barely calmed itself from the buzz created by the appearance of ceremonial first-pitch honoree Muhammad Ali when Clemens put the National League in a quick six-run hole, which led to a 9-4 American League win.
An Ivan Rodriguez RBI triple and two-run homer by Manny Ramirez gave the AL an immediate 3-0 lead. With two outs, Jason Giambi reached on a Jeff Kent error, and after Derek Jeter singled to left, game MVP Alfonso Soriano cleared the bases with a first-pitch homer to left field that gave the AL a six-run advantage.
Soriano finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and one run scored.
"I felt a little sorry because he's been nice to me all of the time," Soriano said of Clemens, a teammate when both were with the Yankees last season. "But you know, I had to do my job in the game. I am sorry, but you know, I am happy right now."
As was everyone else in the AL clubhouse. National Leaguers were a little stunned.
"It goes to show you that on any given night, anything can happen," Mets All-Star lefty Tom Glavine said. "We're all human in this game. For Roger -- he's had such a storied career -- it hasn't happened much, if at all. I'm sure he'd tell you that if he was going to have a bad outing, I'm sure he would rather it be an All-Star Game rather than one in September in a pennant race."
Clemens was throwing on two days' rest, said Kent, but the hurler refused to use it as an excuse.
"It was a tough go of it," Clemens said. "I threw a couple of breaking balls and they hit them. Going in, (Anaheim's Vladimir) Guerrero was the guy I was worried about the most and he was the only guy I got out.
"It happens. You face a good lineup and somebody gets on and somebody flips one out of here and it's a tough outing. The biggest thing to me is I wanted to go two innings to help out and I wasn't able to."
Starting NL catcher Mike Piazza said Clemens appeared to shake off a few pitches before the Boston outfielder deposited an 0-2 pitch to the seats in left field.
"We were a little indecisive there," Piazza said. "I went through every pitch. It was a front-door breaking ball, and
(Ramirez) put on a pretty good swing.
"I put it down and (Clemens) threw it. It wasn't the greatest location and Ramirez is a great hitter. They had a couple of balls to right field and Sammy (Sosa) had some trouble with the sun out there. It could have made a little difference. But his velocity was as good as I've seen."
The AL dugout was energized by the Ramirez blast, but at least one teammate wasn't surprised.
"Everybody knows Manny," said Boston and AL All-Star teammate David Ortiz. "No one was surprised in the dugout when Manny hit the ball like that. Manny puts so much into it every time he steps up to the plate. Manny is such a great hitter. It was a good pitch. He's so good that he can stay with it and still drive it like that. He said, 'I guess that's my first big hit in an All-Star Game, as long as I've been playing in All-Star games.'"
The inning marked the most one team has scored in an All-Star Game since the AL tallied a record seven runs in the third inning in 1983. It was also only the second time in All-Star history a team has scored six runs in a single frame.
"He was excited to be starting in this All-Star Game," Clemens' Astros teammate Carlos Beltran said. "This is his home crowd. To be able to play for the Houston Astros and be able to start in the game here in Houston, it really means a lot to him. He prepared himself. Unfortunately, he had a tough outing today."
And it happens to the best of them, said National League manager Jack McKeon.
"He's been a warrior," McKeon said. "You manage in this league so many years, you say to them, 'Get to this guy early, because if you let him get by, he's going to be tough.' We saw the same thing in the World Series last year with Roger. We got a couple three runs off him in the first inning and the rest of the night, he shut us down."
Said AL manager Joe Torre, Clemens' former Yankee skipper: "I was kidding all week about scoring five or six runs off him in the first inning, never dreaming it was ever possible."
McKeon's plan to pitch Clemens two innings changed rather abruptly when the right-hander threw 35 pitches in the opening frame.
"We figured Roger might be able to go two, but after he threw 30-some odd pitches, I don't think it was advisable to let him go," McKeon said. "And here was a youngster (Dan Kolb) out here that could warm up quickly and had a chance to get him in the game rather than go with (Randy) Johnson, who maybe we didn't give enough time to warm up."
The crowd of 41,886 was given very little to cheer for until the fourth when the National League scored three runs off Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia. Kent knocked a two-out single, followed by a base hit by Beltran. Edgar Renteria plated Kent with a ground-rule double down the left-field line, and two more runs scored on a double by Albert Pujols.
Ortiz added a third homer for the AL in the sixth, a two-run shot that increased the AL lead to five and was the second homer of the night from the Red Sox contingent.
"Those guys have been doing it all year," said Yankees shortstop Jeter, happy to have Ramirez and Ortiz on his side for once. "We've seen Manny and Ortiz enough from playing against them so much."
American League starter Mark Mulder was credited with the win after holding the NL to one run over two innings of work. Being staked to a 6-0 lead didn't hurt.
"It was a tough go of it," Clemens said. "I threw a couple of breaking balls and they hit them. Going in, (Anaheim's Vladimir) Guerrero was the guy I was worried about the most and he was the only guy I got out."
-- Roger Clemens
"It actually helped me to relax," Mulder said of the big cushion. "It took some of the nerves away."
"We didn't change the game plan or anything," said Rodriguez, the AL's starting catcher. "Mulder was great. He kept the ball down and threw strikes, just like he always does."
Along the way, Mulder retired Barry Bonds on a routine fly ball to center field, which pleased him nearly as much as getting the win. When AL reliever Esteban Loaiza walked Bonds later in the game, the sellout crowd showered him with boos.
"I just didn't want to walk Bonds," Mulder said. "So everything was good tonight."
For the second year in a row, the World Series will begin in the American League ballpark.
Last year, the Yankees benefited from the AL All-Star win, garnering home-field advantage in the Fall Classic against the eventual champion Florida Marlins. The series lasted six games and ended on Josh Beckett's two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium.
Did Torre gain any satisfaction out of his league grabbing home-field advantage again this year?
"It certainly helps when you get to go back home," he said. "We didn't take advantage of that last year. Last year, we couldn't get to (Games 6 and 7). I mean, we got to 6, but down 3-2, it's a tough thing."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Ian Browne, Jim Molony, Jesse Sanchez and Mychael Urban also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.