HOUSTON (AP) -- Hard to imagine a better homecoming for Roger
Looking nothing like a guy who had called it quits, Clemens
dominated Barry Bonds and the Giants, holding them to one hit over
seven scoreless innings in his Houston debut and pitching the
Astros past San Francisco 10-1 Wednesday night.
"It sure was nice coming home," Clemens said. "It was just
Only Ray Durham's clean single to center field in the third
inning prevented a most special night at Minute Maid Park from
becoming a truly historic one.
Boosted by an emotional talk with former boss George
Steinbrenner, Clemens posted his 311th victory and tied former
teammate and mentor Tom Seaver for 16th place on the career list.
"It's nice to get the first one underway," Clemens said.
"It's been a long time coming since I first decided to play."
Not a bad comeback for a guy who retired -- albeit for only 78
days -- after last season. At that time, it appeared the standing
ovation he drew from Florida Marlins players and fans in Game 4 of
the World Series would be his farewell.
Instead, a sellout crowd of 42,863 that included former
President Bush and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, plus family members
and friends in Clemens' suite, began cheering even before the first
pitch of his NL debut.
"I was just hoping my energy level would stay at a high level
and it did," Clemens said.
Pitching just 20 minutes from his house, the setting was
certainly different as the 41-year-old Rocket launched his 21st
season after stops with Boston, Toronto and the New York Yankees.
But while it looked and sounded different -- a star on his cap
and "Deep in the Heart of Texas" playing during the
seventh-inning stretch -- it was vintage Clemens on the mound.
And this, too: He delivered a hit-and-run single in his first
at-bat. He kept the ball as a souvenir.
Clemens pitched Houston to its first win of the season, a day
after fellow former Yankees hurler Andy Pettitte was hit hard in
his Astros debut.
"Roger picked us up and we got a tremendous performance from
him," said Jeff Bagwell, who hit his 420th career home run. "The
fans seemed very excited. It's nice that they got a chance to see
what they were looking for."
Clemens struck out nine, including Bonds looking twice at 94 mph
fastballs. Bonds left town with 659 home runs, still one behind his
godfather, Willie Mays, for third place on the career list.
It was the first time in major league history that a pitcher
with 300 wins had faced a hitter with 600 home runs.
"Good for him. Instead of doing it here, let him go home and do
it in front of people who have seen him grow up," Clemens said.
Bonds drew an intentional walk the first time he came to the
plate, flipping aside his elbow guard when the count went to 2-0.
The next time up, Bonds dropped his bat after a 3-2 pitch and
headed toward first, only to hear plate umpire Mike DiMuro call
"Me and Roger have a lot of respect for each other, there's no
doubt about that," Bonds said. "He'll come at me sometimes and
he'll have his way. Sometimes I'll have my way. Tonight, it went
"Roger and I just have a good time," he said. "It's not such
a big deal to us. We're both up in age. It's not like we're young
kids. They should have called this an old-timers' game."
The day began with Clemens calling Yankees' pitching guru Billy
Connors to check on his health. During their conversation, Connors
told Clemens: "Call the Boss."
So Clemens phoned the Yankees owner, and a heart-to-heart talk
followed. Clemens even got choked up when he described it after the
"The call got very emotional. It was just the things he had to
say to me. He called me a warrior and I told him how much he had
meant to me," Clemens said.
"Obviously, it was a pretty long call, but I had to get off the
phone. My voice was breaking up and his was, too," he said.
Clemens blew away pitcher Jerome Williams (0-1) for career
strikeout No. 4,100 to open the third, beginning a string in which
he struck out nine of 14 batters.
The Houston hitters made it easy for Clemens.
Craig Biggio doubled twice and scored each time as the Astros
took a 4-0 lead after three innings. He later added an RBI single.
The Giants finished with four hits.
The Giants were trying to complete a season-opening,
three-game sweep on the road for the third straight year. ... The
Astros avoided their first 0-3 start since 1993.