It looked like a mismatch. It flew like a mismatch. It quacked like a mismatch. And so, a game pitting Roger Clemens vs. the Diamondbacks’ young Dustin Nippert was — surprise! — a mismatch. The Astros’ future Hall of Famer took care of the D-Backs’ lineup with practiced ease in a 9-3 win over Arizona on Saturday at Chase Field.
By contrast, Nippert’s fate was decided by three swings that sent baseballs about a combined 1,200 feet into the stands.
One, a second-inning grand slam by the light-hitting Brad Ausmus, was all Clemens needed.
The other two homers: A two-run job by Luke Scott in the third, and a solo shot by Aubrey Huff in the fifth.
After that fifth inning, Nippert (0-2, 11.70 ERA) was gone. And so was the game for the D-Backs, whose starters are putting pressure on a heavily used bullpen.
“The more we do this, the tougher it is,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We have to get more innings out of our starters.”
Nippert, who said he couldn’t locate his change-up, said, “I got a chance to pitch against someone like him once in a lifetime, and I didn’t do that good of a job.”
With their second straight loss to the Astros, the D-Backs (55-55) dropped to two games behind San Diego for the National League West lead and two games behind Cincinnati for the wild-card lead.
As for Clemens (3-4, 2.32) it was a rare breeze in a season where the Astros have given him minimal run support.
Clemens had allowed two earned runs in 14 innings in his past two starts but came away with a loss and no-decision.
With a big lead, “He had a chance to work on things without feeling he couldn’t make a mistake,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.
Clemens agreed, saying all those runs allowed him more room to maneuver in what might have been a difficult situation: Facing a team twice in the same week (he started against them last Sunday in Houston).
“I could do a few things differently than I normally would . . . as far as pitches I could work on,” he said. “It’s never fun to face the same club in five or six days. They have great hitters. I just tried to attack the zone the best I could. But the run support was definitely a luxury to have.”
Clemens went seven innings, throwing 110 pitches. He gave up eight hits, one walk and three runs while striking out five.
Luke Scott continued his assault on the D-Backs, going 4-for-4.
Eric Byrnes, who entered the game after Jeff DaVanon left with a sprained ankle in the first inning, hit a solo home run in the fifth.