Roger Clemens took the mound on a rainy Friday the 13th at Yankee Stadium, determined to make history. This time, luck was on his side.
With a 10-strikeout, two-run performance, Clemens pitched 6 2/3 innings to defeat St. Louis, 5-2, and post his seventh victory of the year.
It was Clemens' first win of the season on his home field and first-ever start against the Cardinals, but he and everyone who follows baseball will remember the day for two other milestones.
Clemens became the 21st pitcher in major league history to win 300 games and just the third to record 4,000 strikeouts.
His 3,999th strikeout victim was triple crown contender Albert Pujols (19 HR, 60 RBI, .377). Number 4,000 was against 1997 World Series hero Edgar Renteria, who exemplified the respect major leaguers exhibit toward Clemens by holding up four fingers when he posed for a picture with the 40-year-old fireballer after the game.
Fantasy owners with Clemens on their active rosters breathed a sigh of relief, after his first three attempts for 300 fell short. As for the remainder of the season, which Clemens insists will be his last, count on more of the same from the future Hall of Famer, barring injury.
At 7-3, with a 3.73 ERA, Clemens is on pace to finish 16-7.
His 97 strikeouts put him on track to record 224 in a season, which would give him 4,129 for his career, seven shy of Steve Carlton's 4,136 for No. 2 all time. If it ends up that close, expect Clemens to surpass Carlton, especially if the Yankees are involved in a pennant race, as they should be.
Nolan Ryan's 5,714 punch-outs are obviously far out of reach.
The Rocket should close out his career on a high note, but fantasy owners do have reason to be cautious. He spent time on the disabled list during three of the past four seasons.
Here is a glance at the other active career victory leaders, with their chances of reaching the coveted 300 mark and outlook for the rest of 2003:
WHO'S HOT SP Gil Meche, Mariners (9-3, 3.13 ERA). Meche, who missed the past two seasons because of an elbow injury, has mounted perhaps the most impressive comebacks in baseball this year.
WHO'S NOT 1B Paul Konerko, White Sox (3 HR, 17 RBI, .195). How much patience will the White Sox have with Konerko, who hit .304 with 27 HR and 102 RBI last year?
ROOKIE WATCH SP Dontrelle Willis, Marlins (6-1, 2.61 ERA). What's Willis talkin' 'bout now? Marlins fans are discussing the four earned runs he has allowed in five starts, including Monday's one-hit shutout.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106.