Clemens was foiled again by a lack of run support and his ailing back, and Jack Wilson homered off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 1-0 victory Saturday night over the Astros.
Clemens allowed two hits in eight shutout innings, lowering his major league-leading ERA to an incredible 1.32. He struck out nine and walked none, but the Astros couldn't muster any offense against Kip Wells and two relievers.
Clemens said his back -- which he said he injured while moving furniture at his home in late July -- prevented him from coming out for the ninth inning.
"I'm getting by," he said. "I know the results are looking good, but I want to get to a point where my body feels good without hurting something and then have to miss a start. I don't want that to happen."
Clemens said he needed "to get off this medicine that's tearing my ..." before stopping himself. He would not say what medication he was taking, and then quickly said the medicine was not causing the problem.
It was the ninth no-decision for the 43-year-old Clemens, and the sixth time the Astros have failed to score for him. He threw an economical 88 pitches but has not gone longer than eight innings this season.
Wilson homered to left leading off the ninth against Lidge (3-3), his seventh.
"As hitters, we got dominated," Wilson said. "This is lucky. (Clemens) absolutely shoved it down our throats. That's why you give all the credit to Kip for keeping it close."
Six of Clemens' strikeouts came in the first four innings. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner did not allow a baserunner until the fifth, when Rob Mackowiak led off with a single that rolled past the outstretched glove of second baseman Craig Biggio.
By the sixth inning, Clemens had more hits than the Pirates after slapping his second single to right field. That hit and his single in the fourth each moved Brad Ausmus to third, but rookie Willy Taveras grounded out to end both innings.
It was an unusually poor night for Taveras, who leads all rookies with 131 hits. He also had an inning-ending grounder to shortstop in the second after the Astros loaded the bases.
"This is tough. We got such great pitching from Rocket," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We had opportunities but couldn't get them across the board. That's tough."
Garner said Clemens told him he wanted to come out after the eighth.
Wells, a Houston-area native just like Clemens, allowed six hits and walked four in seven innings before he was relieved by Torres. The Astros stranded 11 runners.
"We battled probably one of the greatest pitchers of all-time and we didn't embarrass ourselves," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He dominated us, but at least we didn't embarrass ourselves."
Clemens is 8-1 since May and has allowed just 13 earned runs during that span.
The Rocket briefly retired two years ago and nearly did so again after last season. But the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner returned to make $18 million this season, his 24th in the majors. It is the biggest salary ever for a pitcher and the largest one-year contract in baseball history.
"It's just disappointing," Clemens said. "I don't like coming out of those and putting Brad in that situation. I know he loves those situations, too. But when it doesn't work out ... you hate to come out on the short end of it."
- Clemens stayed stuck on 339 career wins. He was also hit by a pitch in the second inning for the first time in his career.
- Clemens remained unbeaten in five career starts against the Pirates.
- Pirates RF Jason Bay has reached base safely in 28 straight games.
- It was the second time this season the Pirates have beaten Lidge. They also did it on May 4.