The Associated Press
SEATTLE - Roger Clemens already had accomplished more than enough during a career that should put him in the Hall of Fame.
Look at him now, just the same.
The Rocket is 9-0 and ranked 14th all time with 319 victories after beating Seattle 1-0 Tuesday night. Yet he insisted the best thing about this season is that he's helping his hometown Houston Astros win.
"We're not playing well right now, but we're finding our way through certain situations," Clemens said. "That's what we're going to have to do if we're going to take that next step, go to that next level."
The 41-year-old Clemens became the oldest pitcher to win his first nine decisions, allowing three hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings. Dennis Martinez was 40 when he started 9-0 for Cleveland in 1995, when he finished 12-5.
Clemens didn't have his 97 mph fastball but kept the Mariners off balance by mixing in sliders as he outdueled Joel Pineiro (1-8) in a game that was scoreless for six innings.
"When I was little, I had a poster of him in my room. Not a bad guy to look up to," Pineiro said.
Clemens wasn't flawless, allowing runners leading off three innings.
"He didn't have his 96 and 97 mph stuff, but he had a really good slider," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "He threw more sliders than I've seen in the past. Not as many splits. He threw very, very well."
Clemens, a six-time Cy Young Award winner, struck out seven to boost his career total to 4,187. He walked a season-high five but improved to 23-14 against Seattle, the most wins by a pitcher against the Mariners.
The win moved Clemens past Phil Niekro on the career list. Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton are tied for 12th with 324 victories, and it won't be long at this rate before Clemens passes them, too.
"The guys I've tied or passed, it's just icing on the cake for me," said Clemens, who ended a brief retirement over the winter to join the Astros. "I felt anything that happened this year was just a great deal of fun. I never expected to be here."
Clemens has won two straight starts after a skid - by his standards - of three straight games without a decision from May 16-28. He won seven straight starts to open the season.
"He's been phenomenal this year," teammate Craig Biggio said. "That's 12 solid starts. He tries to stay in there as long as he can, and 12 quality starts is pretty impressive."
The crowd of 34,238 gave Clemens a standing ovation when he left in the seventh inning, despite the Mariners trailing 1-0.
"It's really nice. I've enjoyed coming to Seattle," Clemens said. "I've had some fun in the old stadium and this stadium. I don't know that you would consider tonight a lot of fun. It wasn't comfortable at any point."
The Astros will get more help when Andy Pettitte comes off the disabled list. Pettitte is still working back from a strained muscle in his left forearm.
Clemens has been outstanding, and he's certain the Astros will be even better with his former Yankees teammate on the field.
"This guy next to me, I want to get him feeling well," Clemens said, motioning to Pettitte's locker. "We're going to need him. We need to get the other guys going on the same cylinders. That's the bottom line."
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