Alvarez outpitched the six-time Cy Young winner, and batterymate
Paul Lo Duca tuned up for his second straight All-Star game with a
three-run homer to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory
over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
"It's an honor to beat him. This is a day I have to celebrate,
because you don't see that every day," said Alvarez, who made his
big league debut in 1989.
"When you face a guy like that, it's like, 'Hey, I'm facing The
Man. I'm facing Clemens. I'm facing one of the best.' When you
pitch against a guy like that, it's all motivation. He is somebody
I always looked up to."
Alvarez (3-3), making his second spot start since Hideo Nomo
went on the disabled list, allowed a run and three hits in six-plus
Eric Gagne pitched two perfect innings -- striking out Jeff
Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent in order in the ninth -- for
his 23rd save this season, and 86th in his last 87 attempts. The
reigning NL Cy Young winner also broke Jeff Shaw's club record for
saves with his 130th.
Gagne, heading to his third straight All-Star game, had only one
two-inning save during his record streak of 84 in a row, which
ended last Monday night against Arizona.
Clemens (10-3) allowed three runs and four hits over seven
innings and struck out eight in his first game at Dodger Stadium.
He received a warm reception from the crowd of 46,321 as he walked
to the mound for the first inning.
Clemens gave up just two hits before the tide turned in the
sixth, thanks to the pesky Dave Roberts, who leads the Dodgers with
28 stolen bases. He coaxed a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch and swiped
second after several throws to first by Clemens.
"You just try and wear him out, if you can," Clemens said.
"Those two guys, Roberts and (Cesar) Izturis, can do a lot of
things, so it's to your advantage to keep them off base," Clemens
said. "I can compare them to those first two guys with Florida in
the World Series last year. They can cause you some trouble."
Izturis followed with a bloop double just inside the right-field
line, and Lo Duca cranked the next pitch into the left-field
bullpen for his second home run in three days against the Astros.
It was the eighth homer for Lo Duca, one more than he had last
season, and will give him much to talk about at Tuesday's All-Star
gala at Houston when he and Clemens become teammates for a day.
"The home runs don't beat you. What beats you are the walks,
especially when the games are close and you know you've got to
minimize the damage," Clemens said. "I've been around long enough
to know that."
The 10-time All-Star, who has had five successful sacrifice
bunts in his career, bunted into a double play started by first
baseman Shawn Green in the third inning after a leadoff walk to
Milton Bradley drew a leadoff walk in the Dodgers' second
inning, stole second on the next pitch and advanced on a groundout.
But he was held at third by coach Glenn Hoffman on Jayson Werth's
flyball to right fielder Berkman -- who made an accurate throw to
the plate -- and Robin Ventura grounded out.
Lo Duca, who looked bad striking out in his first career
regular-season at-bat against Clemens, lined an opposite-field
double down the right-field line leading off the fourth. But the
41-year-old right-hander, who has more strikeouts than anyone in
history except Nolan Ryan, fanned Bradley, Green and Werth in
succession on 18 pitches.
"He's a competitor," said Ventura, who played on the same
All-Star team with Clemens in 1992 and with the Yankees in 2002-03.
"Even though he's older, he still throws hard, he still hits his
spots and he still gets up for every game. So that's all you can
ask. A lot of people wrote him off when he went to Toronto, but
look at what he's done since then."
Meanwhile, Alvarez is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in seven starts this
season. He was lifted in the seventh to a standing ovation after
giving up a walk and a single by Berkman with none out and was
relieved by Guillermo Mota.
Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb hit a sacrifice fly with the bases
loaded, but Izturis went deep in the hole at shortstop to field
Ausmus' grounder and got the force at third on Berkman.
Clemens' Dodger Stadium debut made it 36 different
ballparks that he's pitched in during his 21-year major league
career, including three stadiums he competed in only during