Three duels, one night

The last time two 300-game winners took the mound to start in the same game was June 28, 1986, when Phil Niekro and Cleveland visited the Angels and Don Sutton. Neither starter got the decision in the 9-3 California (as they were called then) victory. Niekro went 6.1 innings, allowing 10 hits, three earned runs while walking seven and striking out four. Sutton lasted seven, but gave up three runs on seven hits (two of them homers) with no walks and six Ks.

The last time it happened in the National League was 1892, when Tim Keefe and Pud Galvin met for the fourth time in the past three seasons, and second time in a month, on July 21. Keefe’s Phillies won that game 2-0 over Galvin’s Browns after losing a July 4 meeting 9-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.

It happens tonight in Houston, when Greg Maddux takes his 305 victories up against Roger Clemens’ 328. With 14 wins this season, Clemens will tie Keefe’s 342 for eighth on the all-time list. Galvin finished with 364, in fifth place. Tonight’s pitchers also have 11 Cy Young awards between them; where once they were tied at four each, Clemens now has three more than his opponent tonight, having won one every three years since 1998 (then 2001 and 2004).

There’s another Cy Young matchup in the Bronx, where Roy Halladay and Randy Johnson are scheduled to go if the rain holds off. And in what would seem like a Cy Young matchup, had either of them won it in Oakland, former teammates Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson will pitch to one another when the Cardinals play in Atlanta. Both finished second, in consecutive years; Mulder in 2001 to Clemens and Hudson in 2000 to Pedro Martinez. This is the reason I have the Extra Innings package on digital cable. Alas, I have a friend’s birthday party in New York tonight. The game I really want to see is in Houston, but so long as they play, I’ll at least be assured of the Evil Empire vs. the team from the Great White North at the bar.

I’m such a good friend. Well, he is too — $20 for a two-hour open bar, plus appetizers.

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