Clemens, Pujols Upstaged in Returns

Friday, June 23rd 2006, 7:56 am
By: News On 6

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota's 22-year-old phenom, pitched seven scoreless innings to lead the visiting Twins to a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night in Clemens' much-anticipated debut.

The 43-year-old Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, left after throwing 100 pitches in five innings. It was his first major league start since leaving Game 1 of the World Series exactly eight months ago with a strained hamstring.

The Rocket allowed six hits and two runs, struck out four and walked two.

``It was positive,'' Clemens said. ``My body felt better than expected and I hope and expect to get stronger each time I get out there.''

Liriano (7-1) gave up four hits in eight innings and didn't allow a run until Jason Lane's two-run homer in the eighth, helping the Twins to their ninth win in 10 games and their fourth straight series victory.

While Clemens (0-1) was upstaged by a rookie half his age, Pujols went 0-for-4 in his return to the St. Louis Cardinals after missing 15 games because of a strained muscle in his side.

``I felt great. Of course timing is going to be off,'' Pujols said. ``Wish we could have won the game, but I was just happy to be back there.''

After giving up 33 runs in the first two games of the series against the Chicago White Sox, the visiting Cardinals got a brilliant performance from rookie Anthony Reyes (1-1), who allowed only one hit. Unfortunately, it was a solo homer to Jim Thome in the seventh inning and St. Louis lost 1-0.

``Oh man, what a performance,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``It shows you there's no justice when he's the losing pitcher. He should have gotten a no-decision at worst.''

In other interleague games, it was: Florida 8, Baltimore 5; Toronto 3, Atlanta 2; Los Angeles 4, Seattle 2; Tampa Bay 4, Arizona 1; Texas 5, San Diego 3; and Kansas City 15, Pittsburgh 7. In the only NL game, the New York Mets beat Cincinnati 6-2.

Freddy Garcia (9-4) allowed four hits in eight innings, retiring 13 straight during one stretch. But his effort was overshadowed for the first 6 1-3 innings by Reyes, who mixed pitches and changed speeds.

``Reyes, he knows what he is doing. He made a good pitch every time,'' said Garcia, who knows what it's like to lose a one-hitter _ he pitched one in a 1-0 defeat last year in Minnesota. ``He gave up one hit and that was a home run. That's all we needed.''

Mets 6, Reds 2

At New York, David Wright hit a pair of two-run homers and Pedro Martinez won for only the second time since April 28.

The win gave New York a split of the four-game series and widened its lead in the NL East to 10 games over Philadelphia.

Wright connected in the fourth and fifth innings against Eric Milton (4-4), keying a Mets comeback after the Reds took an early 2-0 lead.

Martinez (7-3) overcame some unusual wildness to throw six innings for the victory.

Heath Bell worked a scoreless seventh. Chad Bradford came in with two runners on in the eighth and struck out three of his four batters for his second save.

Marlins 8, Orioles 5

At Baltimore, refusing to be walked, Miguel Cabrera reached across the plate and hit an intentional ball from Todd Williams for a 10th-inning RBI single, helping the Marlins rally past Baltimore.

The Marlins trailed 5-1 in the ninth before coming back against Baltimore closer Chris Ray, who was 18-for-18 in save situations this season.

Then, with the score tied at 5 in the 10th, Hanley Ramirez led off with an infield hit against Williams (1-3). Ramirez took second on a groundout, bringing Cabrera to the plate.

With catcher Ramon Hernandez standing upright and calling for an intentional walk, Cabrera stepped into the soft, outside pitch and drove it to center, scoring Ramirez with the go-ahead run on a swing more likely to be seen in the movies than the major leagues.

Randy Messenger (1-3) worked the ninth and earned his first major league win, and Joe Borowski got three outs for his 13th save.

Blue Jays 3, Braves 2

At Atlanta, Thanks to another bullpen meltdown, the Braves have lost 10 consecutive games for the first time in 18 years.

With the loss, the Braves have been swept in three straight series of at least three games for the first time since 1977. They have lost 10 straight games for the first time since an 0-10 start to the 1988 season, and they fell 15 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets.

Toronto welcomed back starter A.J. Burnett, who pitching for the first time since April 21. He gave up only five hits and two runs in six innings. Burnett, who struck out seven, showed no signs of the soreness in his right elbow that caused him to go on the disabled list on April 22.

Ty Taubenheim (1-4) recorded two outs in the seventh for his first win. B.J. Ryan got the final three outs for his 20th save _ and third of the series _ in 21 chances.

Mike Remlinger (2-4) took the loss.

Dodgers 4, Mariners 2

At Los Angeles, Derek Lowe pitched a seven-hitter to win his fifth straight decision, Cesar Izturis got three hits and scored twice in his first start since last August, and the Dodgers beat the Mariners to snap a five-game losing streak.

It was the first interleague loss in nine games for the Mariners, who were the first team ever to win eight straight interleague games to begin a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Lowe (6-3) walked none and struck out six in the Dodgers' first complete game of the season.

The Dodgers scored three runs in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead and chase Felix Hernandez (7-7), who entered having won four straight starts.

Devil Rays 4, Diamondbacks 1

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Scott Kazmir took a two-hitter into the eighth and Aubrey Huff homered and drove in three runs to lead Tampa Bay.

Kazmir (9-4) limited the Diamondbacks to Conor Jackson's second-inning double and Chad Tracy's seventh-inning single before Johnny Estrada led off the eighth with his sixth homer.

Brian Meadows pitched the ninth to finish a combined three-hitter and earn his second save.

Edgar Gonzalez (0-1), called up from the minors before the game, has lost 10 consecutive decisions dating to 2004, when he was 0-9 in 10 starts.

Rangers 5, Padres 3

At Arlington, Texas, Michael Young got the go-ahead hit and Texas beat San Diego to avoid a series sweep and a losing homestand.

Young's two-run single in the fifth gave Texas a 3-2 lead before Hank Blalock's two-run double.

John Rheinecker (3-1) allowed 11 hits over 5 1-3 innings, but the Padres managed only two runs against him. Akinori Otsuka worked the ninth for his 14th save.

San Diego starter Clay Hensley (4-6) is 0-3 in his last four starts. He allowed five runs and six hits over 4 1-3 innings.

Royals 15, Pirates 7

At Kansas City, Mo., Emil Brown and Tony Graffanino drove in three runs apiece, helping Kansas City complete a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh.

In this interleague matchup between the two worst teams in the majors, the Royals seemed to establish themselves as the best of the worst. The Pirates have lost a season-worst eight straight and are 1-8 against the AL this season.

Reggie Sanders scored four times for Kansas City. Scott Elarton (3-8) allowed one earned run in 5 2-3 innings.

Paul Maholm (2-6) went 4 1-3 innings, giving up seven runs and six hits.