Clemens learning his craft

Clemens learning his craft
September 15, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Paul Clemens after his start vs. Angels

Paul Clemens isn’t the same pitcher he was early in the season with the Astros. The rookie right-hander is learning his craft. And Sunday was a fine example of that.

Even in defeat, a 2-1 loss to the Angels, Clemens showed maturity and progress. Clemens, in his second stint with the Astros, allowed only two runs in seven innings in only his third major league start.

“Early (this season) when I got called up I wanted to show them I’m here to compete and I went after guys aggressively with my fastball and it started to burn me,” said Clemens, who began the season as a reliever. “I really want to focus on my execution and pitch selection.”

The Astros’ only run came in the second inning on Marc Krauss’ fourth home run of the season. Krauss’ 356-foot homer to right field off winning pitcher Jerome Williams (8-10) tied the game 1-1.

On Sunday, Clemens allowed six hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Clemens was scratched from his scheduled start last Sunday at Oakland with a blister on his right middle finger. His velocity was down on Sunday but he made up for it by using his breaking stuff more.

“It was impressive,” said Astros manager Bo Porter. “He did a tremendous job of using all of his pitches. He was able to plus and minus his fastball. His fastball was anywhere from 88-94. Even when he was behind in the count, he was confident in using his changeup.”

Overall Clemens was pleased with his performance.

“I’m happy with some of it,” said Clemens. “There’s some pitch selection I got to get better. There were some at-bats there where the pitch selection was wrong.

“The game comes down to two things. Executing your pitches and choosing the right pitch in the right situations. I just want to continue to get better at those two things.”

The Angels scored single runs in the first and fifth off Clemens, who threw 88 pitches, 55 for strikes. In the first, Mike Trout scored from second base on a triple by Josh Hamilton that landed high atop Tal’s Hill in deep center, and just out of reach of center fielder Brandon Barnes, who has been making spectacular catches all season.

“Sometimes when you get behind in the count you turn around, give Barnes a little nod and see if he can run them down,” said Clemens. “Ninety-nine percent of the time he runs them down.”

The Angels’ go-ahead run came as Erick Aybar scored from third base on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Romine. On the play Hank Conger was doubled up at first place on a 7-6-3 double play. Jonathan Villar took the throw from Krauss in left field, and Villar’s throw to first baseman Chris Carter completed the double play.

The Astros out-hit the Angels 7-6 but dropped their second straight game to the Angels after a four-game winning streak. The Astros were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. They failed to score with runners at first and third and one out in the third inning, and with runners at second and third and one out in the eighth inning after Jose Altuve put down a sacrifice bunt.

But despite the loss, the Astros won the season series against the Angels 10-9.

Altuve went 1-for-3 and has 27 hits in September. Villar extended his career-long hitting streak to nine games.


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