It was a win-win situation. Clemens earns his 350th victory, and the Yankees end a three-game losing streak.
Unfortunately for Clemens and the Yankees, that scenario did not play out Wednesday at Camden Yards. Clemens was denied his milestone win, his streak of consecutive starts with a strikeout ended at 200, and the Yankees lost to the Baltimore Orioles 4-0.
The 44-year-old Clemens (1-3) was trying to become the eighth pitcher with 350 career wins. He threw five shutout innings, but his bid fell apart under a barrage of hits in a four-run sixth that included a three-run homer by Aubrey Huff.
"It's my fault. I've been in hundreds of those types of games," Clemens said. "You just want to minimize what you're doing out there and try to keep momentum. The way the game's breaking down, you want to stay away from the big inning."
It didn't happen. Clemens walked off the mound with the Yankees down 4-0, and New York went quietly in losing for the seventh time in eight games.
"You're supposed to get it done," Clemens said, referring to himself.
The right-hander's run of successive starts with at least one strikeout also ended. It was the third-longest streak by an active major leaguer, behind Pedro Martinez (293) and Javier Vazquez (237).
Yankees manager Joe Torre suspected that Clemens was seeking to conserve his energy on a humid night in which temperatures soared into the upper 90s.
"I think Roger, knowing the conditions, always has a plan. There was never really a situation where he needed a strikeout," Torre said. "Roger was thinking more about contact than striking people out, though it was an oddity."
Clemens is second on the career strikeout list with 4,626, trailing only Nolan Ryan (5,714).
In his fourth start since joining the Yankees on June 9, Clemens allowed four runs, seven hits and three walks in six innings.
He was outdone by Erik Bedard (6-4), who gave up two hits and a walk in seven brilliant innings. The left-hander struck out eight and did not allow a runner past first base.
"What a matchup between two outstanding pitchers," Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley said. "Erik Bedard seemed to get better as he went along. For him to bring his game to the level that he did tonight, knowing who he was facing, one-on-one with Mr. Clemens and the New York Yankees, I think says something about what we've got with Erik Bedard."
Jamie Walker allowed a single in the eighth and Chad Bradford yielded two singles in the ninth. Bradford bounced to back to strike out Jorge Posada and retire Bobby Abreu on a groundout to first to end the game.
Clemens allowed only three hits through the first five innings, but after throwing two pitches in the sixth he was visited at the mound by Yankees trainer Steve Donohue. The cause of the discomfort was Clemens struck his elbow on his knee during his follow-through.
The veteran continued on. He was not, however, effective.
Chris Gomez singled and Nick Markakis drew a walk before Ramon Hernandez singled in the game's first run. Huff then ended his career-worst home run drought at 143 at-bats, driving a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats.
"I'd like to hit a home run there against anybody," said Huff, whose first homer since May 9 all but assured the Yankees another loss.
"Right now, it certainly is puzzling," Torre said. "You really can't worry about the season as much as you need to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow we need to come out here and start winning."
Bedard struck out the first four batters before yielding a second-inning single to Posada. Clemens gave up a one-out single in the first inning, then got Markakis to hit into a double play.
In the second, Melvin Mora hit a comebacker off Clemens' leg, but the pitcher quickly retrieved the ball and made the throw to first.
Neither team placed a runner in scoring position until the Baltimore fourth, when Brian Roberts singled and stole second with one out. He advanced on a groundout by Markakis, and Clemens walked Hernandez before retiring Huff on a grounder to shortstop.
The Orioles threatened again in the fifth. After Jay Gibbons drew a two-out walk and took third on a double by Corey Patterson, Clemens went to 3-2 on Roberts before the leadoff hitter tapped a weak grounder to second.
- The Orioles recalled SS Brandon Fahey from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned OF Jon Knott to the same club. Fahey entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement.
- New York is 1-4 against Baltimore this season.