-- Roger Clemens plans to pitch Saturday whether the Houston Astros are still trying to clinch the NL wild card or already have their playoff spot secured.
The Rocket skipped his last scheduled start because of a sore left hamstring that has bothered him all month. The 43-year-old right-hander, who is 12-8 and leads the major leagues with a 1.89 ERA, wants to pitch again before the playoffs.
"I need to be in a game," Clemens said Thursday before the Astros opened their regular season ending series against the Chicago Cubs. "I've rested too long. The side work that I'm doing is not intense enough. I need to get out in a game and at least get some active innings under my belt before we get underway."
Clemens said he felt good and had "bounced back pretty good" after an extensive bullpen session Wednesday that followed treatment on his hamstring.
Manager Phil Garner had already said that Clemens, who last season won his record seventh Cy Young Award and has 340 career victories, would pitch Saturday against the Cubs.
"He wants to and I want him to," Garner said. "I think he'd just like to know where he stands. He needs to be on the mound to see where he is."
Clemens is 1-4 in his last eight starts. The victory during that stretch was Sept. 14 against Florida, when he pitched into the seventh inning on the day his mother died.
In his only start since, Clemens gave up 11 hits in 52/3 innings Sept. 19 at Pittsburgh, the most hits he has allowed since 1999 with the New York Yankees. The Pirates won 7-0, the ninth time this season the Astros were shut out in a game Clemens started.
"The stuff I had that day wasn't going to get it done, so I need to be a little sharper than that. Hopefully, I'm past this," he said. "I'm doing the exercises to keep it strong and well."
Clemens was scratched from his scheduled start last Friday in Chicago, then given a couple of extra days of rest before starting again.
Those extra days also allowed the Astros to set up their rotation to have Andy Pettitte, Clemens and Roy Oswalt pitch the first three games of the NL playoffs, if they make it. Houston went into its game Thursday night with a 21/2-game lead in the wild-card race over Philadelphia, which had the night off before playing this weekend at Washington.
When asked if he thought he was 100 percent, Clemens said he wouldn't know until he got on the mound in a game.
"I need to be out there and be in a live, intense situation to test my leg again," he said. "If not, I'll deal with it. I've been dealing with it three or four starts. It just makes my starts a little less crisp and not as sharp. I'll go with what I have."