07/14/2004 1:28 AM ET
Astros reflect on positives
Disappointing results don't detract from All-Star Game
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The 75th All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park had all the familiar ingredients seen at so many Houston games this season: A sellout crowd, some boos directed at Jimy Williams and no shortage of disappointing performances from the hometown stars.
|Carlos Beltran (left) and Edgar Renteria scored on an Albert Pujols double in the fourth. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
"We were all flustered out there," Houston second baseman Jeff Kent said. "They jumped all over us. We were trying to slow them down before we even had a chance to breathe."
At least this one didn't cost the Astros any ground in the standings.
Mirroring the Astros' season, the optimism leading up to Houston's first All-Star Game since 1986 soon turned to disappointment as hometown hero Roger Clemens was rocked for a pair of homers and six runs in the first inning. The evening also saw Kent contribute an error while Kent, Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran were a combined 2-for-6 with a pair of singles.
Clemens had his worst -- and shortest -- outing since putting on a Houston uniform. The six-time Cy Young Award winner lasted just one inning and gave up six runs, including three earned, on five hits. The right-hander did not walk a batter and struck out two. He threw 35 pitches with 23 going for strikes.
"Roger was pitching on two days' rest, he wasn't really set up to pitch the way he normally pitches," Kent said. "He took one tonight for the team.
"You could tell he didn't have his good stuff," Berkman said. "That lineup the American League had is just unbelievable. It doesn't take much to give up six runs in a game like this."
Clemens wasn't using the short rest 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 guy 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."
The fans gave him a warm round of applause, including former President George Bush, who was in attendance.
"Great game," Mr. Bush said. "Listen, it doesn't matter it they shelled Roger in the first inning, he has the hearts and minds of people in Texas and in baseball."
Berkman went 0-for-2, grounding out to first base in the second and flying out to left in the fifth.
"I definitely felt a little depleted (after finishing second in the Century 21 Home Run Derby Monday night), the adrenalin wasn't quite there," Berkman said. "I think I spent it all last night."
The opposing hitters were sympathetic of Clemens' plight. And working with New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza wasn't an issue, just as Clemens and Piazza said it wouldn't be.
"It wasn't awkward," Piazza said. "It was somewhat ironic just the way this kind of worked out. Frustrating results but it was still a great game."
"This will be something I'll always remember. My first All-Star Game and getting a hit in the game.
That's very special to me."
-- Carlos Beltran
The AL batted around against Clemens and set a record by hitting for the cycle in the inning.
"Any time you're facing a guy like Rocket, you don't anticipate scoring that many runs," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "It was probably tough for him to pitch, because I'm sure there were a lot of emotions. I'm sure he had a lot of emotions, and it can be tough to pitch like that. He's had an outstanding first half, the fans recognized that and gave him a nice ovation. He deserved it."
Added teammate Alex Rodriguez: "I think Roger was gassed. He took this whole event on his own shoulders, running around all over town. He probably didn't have his legs under him entirely."
There were a few bright spots for Houston. Kent and Beltran started a two-out rally and Kent said the whole atmosphere from the start was enjoyable. The introductions, when the players in the starting lineup came out of the stands individually, was a nice touch according to Kent.
"Seeing the fans, they were all there wanting to shake your hand or pat you on the back," Kent said. "There were a lot of kids and they were all excited. That brought tears to my eyes."
The rest of the evening made NL fans want to cry.
Kent lined out sharply to his second base counterpart Alfonso Soriano in the second but started a two-out rally in the fourth with a single to left in the fourth. Beltran came to the plate next, pinch hitting for pitcher Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs. Beltran singled to left as well and when Edgar Renteria and Albert Pujols of St. Louis followed with successive doubles Kent and Beltran scored.
"This will be something I'll always remember," Beltran said. "My first All-Star Game and getting a hit in the game. That's very special to me."
Kent finished 1-for-2 and left for pinch-hitter Mark Loretta of San Diego in the sixth.
Beltran didn't fare as well his second time up. Facing Ted Lilly of Toronto with two on and nobody out in the sixth, Beltran popped out to shortstop.
"You always want to win but it was good to be here and be a part of all of this," Beltran said. "It's the greatest feeling when you're out there with all of those great ballplayers like (San Francisco's) Barry (Bonds) and (Chicago's) Sammy (Sosa)."
Even though they lost, Kent and Beltran said it was still a great night for the game. And maybe one that can help Houston in the second half of the season.
"I was telling (Houston trainer) Rex Jones that maybe having all of these great hitters together here in the stadium will rub off on us and take the whammy off our offense," Kent said.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.