NEW YORK, May 26 (UPI) -- Relying on a patient approach at the plate and five gritty innings from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, Boston spoiled the first bid of Roger Clemens to get 300 career victories Monday as the Red Sox posted an 8-4 win over the New York Yankees.
Clemens (6-3), seeking to become the first pitcher to reach 300 career wins since Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat on July 31, 1990, labored through 5 2/3 innings. After cruising through the first inning, the 40-year-old righthander struggled putting batters away and was forced to throw a season-high 133 pitches.
He allowed eight runs and 10 hits, also season highs, walked two, struck out nine, and surrendered just one extra-base hit, a double to Manny Ramirez in the second inning that led to a run, but repeatedly failed to retire batters after getting ahead in the count. Boston registered eight two-strike hits against the New York fireballer, many of them costly.
"It was some great battling, what people saw were great battles," Clemens said. "They fouled off a lot of pitches, put the ball in play, and found holes. When they do that, you have a battle."
"He threw a lot of pitches in five innings," said Boston Manager Grady Little. "He had had enough. Still, we were fortunate to get enough runs. We did a nice job at the plate, and were able to stay close until he got tired."
With the game virtually sold out more than a week in advance, and Clemens having more than 50 family members and invited guests on hand, the Yankees waited more than 90 minutes to get the game in.
Despite damp conditions, an enthusiastic crowd showed up hoping to witness history, but after watching him struggle, many began heading to the exits when Clemens departed trailing, 7-3.
"The festivities of the day were nice and it was great to have that electricity back in the stadium," Clemens said. "The weather was rough, but once we got the go-ahead with 30 minutes to go, it was business as usual. I didn't have a great bullpen session, but when I took the actual mound, I was able to feed off the crowd, which was really into it."
Clemens gets his next shot at 300 this weekend in Detroit against the Tigers. He will have to wait to become the second pitcher to record his 300th victory with the Yankees, and missed an opportunity to join Tom Seaver as the only pitchers to have acommplished the feat at Yankee Stadium.
He was slated to go Sunday, but with a calf injury to fellow starter David Wells, he could get the call Saturday, depending upon how his arm feels.
As disappointing as Clemens outing was, the Yankees have other reasons to be concerned.
They dropped their eighth straight home game, their longest home-field drought since losing 10 in a row in 1986. New York also has lost 12 of 13 games at Yankee Stadium for the first time ever.
"We laid off his splitter and got some mistakes and were able to hit them," said Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller. "We knew his pitch count was up, and made it three tough outs (an inning) for him today."
"We talked about his pitch count between innings, but the way he threw the fifth, we had no problem sending him out there," Torre said. "He might have gotten a bit tired, trying to overpower them and get that final out."
Wakefield (5-2), who lost to Clemens last Wednesday, bounced back and gave Boston just enough. After holding New York hitless for the first three innings, he allowed three runs in the fourth.
With the lead in jeopardy, he made big pitches to escape jams in the fourth and fifth, and finished allowing three runs and four hits.
He did walk six and struck out four before turning the game over to the bullpen, which allowed one run and one hit over the final four innings.
"I was lucky to keep them at bay as long as I did," Wakefield conceded.
Boston's Nomar Garciaparra went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. In the process, he extended his hitting streak to 26 games. That's the longest streak in the major leagues this season and sixth-longest in team history.
Todd Walker also had a big afternoon with two hits, two runs scored and three RBI.
Boston has split four games with New York this season.
After the Yankees left a runner in scoring positionin the first inning, Ramirez opened the second with a long double. Clemens got nemesis Trot Nixon swinging, but Kevin Millar and Shea Hillenbrand followed with base hits to produce a run. Clemens threw 35 pitches in the inning.
New York left two more runners in their half of the inning, and Boston scored twice in the third.
Walker singled with one out, and Garciaparra extended his hitting streak with a base hit to left. Clemens uncorked a wild pitch and Ramirez was walked intentionally.
Nixon walked on a very close 3-2 pitch to force home a run, and Millar ripped a line drive into the left-center field gap, where Hideki Matsui made a spectacular diving grab. Garciaparra scored on the sacrifice fly, and by the time Clemens struck out Hillenbrand to end the inning, he already had thrown 75 pitches.
The Red Sox tacked on two runs in fourth.
Bill Mueller and Doug Mirabelli opened the inning with singles and were bunted over. A groundout by Walker scored Mueller, and Mirabelli came home when Clemens fired a wild pitch on an 0-2 pitch to Garciaparra.
The Yankees gave fans a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the fourth as they finally solved Wakefield. Jorge Posada walked with one out, and Robin Ventura singled. After Raul Mondesi struck out, Juan Rivera doubled home a run.
Todd Zeile followed with a grounder up the middle, but Walker rushed his throw, and Ventura and Rivera scored to slice Boston's lead to 5-3. Derek Jeter followed with a base hit, but Wakefield got the slumping Matsui to bounce out weakly.
Clemens got the crowd into the game in the fifth by striking out the side, but again Wakefield made a big pitch in the bottom of the frame.
Jason Giambi, Posada, and Ventura drew one-out walks to load the bases, but the Red Sox righthander induced Mondesi to bounce sharply into an inning-ending double play.
New York Manager Joe Torre opted to give Clemens one last chance at a victory by sending him out for the sixth. He easily got the first two batters, but Mirabelli and Johnny Damon singled, with Damon taking second on an error by Rivera in left field.
Walker then dribbled a single up the middle that scored both runners for a 7-3 cushion. Antonio Osuna replaced Clemens and allowed an RBI single to Garciaparra, the first batter he faced.