Rocket on standby if Astros extended

ST. LOUIS -- Roger Clemens can relax. For now, Pete Munro is
the Houston Astros' pick to pitch them into the World Series.

Ahead 3-2 in the NL Championship Series, manager Phil Garner
studied it: the Rocket on three days' rest vs. a journeyman hit
hard last week. On the team flight to St. Louis, Munro was told he
would start Game 6 Wednesday against the Cardinals.

"I guess I was kind of overwhelmed," Munro said before
Tuesday's workout at Busch Stadium. "I'm sure that they'd rather
face me than Roger. I mean, I'd rather face me than Roger."

Instead, Clemens will be held back for a possible Game 7. Or
maybe a start in the World Series opener. He's still in Houston and is expected to fly to St. Louis and join the team Wednesday.

"There are going to be a lot of people saying do the opposite,
start Roger," Garner said. "But what I feel in my gut is what I
have to do."

Garner could have lined up Clemens and Roy Oswalt to face the
Cardinals, bringing both back early in hopes of putting Houston
into its first World Series.

But the stats aren't good: Since five-man rotations became
popular, pitchers on three days' rest lose about three times more
than they win in the postseason.

During the first round against Atlanta, Clemens pitched on three
days' rest for the first time since April 11, 2002. He hung in for
five innings, allowing two runs.

"I think it's false to assume that just because you're going to
bring Roger back that you're sure to win," Garner said. "Because
I'm starting Pete doesn't mean we're giving this game away."

After losing three straight games, the Cardinals assumed they'd
be facing Clemens.

"I saw some controversy in the paper, but I kind of think he'll
pitch," third baseman Scott Rolen said earlier Tuesday. "I think
we all think he'll pitch and then we'll have Oswalt in Game 7,

Added Game 6 starter Matt Morris: "Obviously, our position
players might rather face Pete Munro rather than a Roger Clemens.
We know his capabilities. Although, taking nothing away from

A day before, the 42-year-old Clemens said he was set. He won
Game 3, going seven innings.

"I'll be ready to go whenever he wants to hand me the ball,"
he said.

Coming off one of the best and most unlikely pitching duels in
playoff history, it was hard to know what to expect. The teams
totaled just four hits -- a postseason record -- on Monday night,
with Brandon Backe and the Astros beating Woody Williams and the
Cardinals 3-0.

Jeff Kent's three-run homer off Jason Isringhausen in the ninth
inning won that matchup at Minute Maid Park. The clubs have
combined for 20 home runs so far, three off the NLCS record set
last year by Florida and the Cubs.

"We're as likely to have a 10-8 game as a 2-1 game," Garner

It was right in the middle -- 6-4, St. Louis -- when Morris and
Munro matched up in Game 2. Each gave up three runs and six hits,
with Munro lasting 4 2-3 innings and Morris going five.

Munro started the season at Triple-A for Minnesota, was signed
by Houston in June and demoted to the minors. He went 4-7 with a
5.15 ERA for the Astros, and has a 13-19 career mark in the majors.

"I've been underestimated my whole life, when it comes to
baseball," Munro said. "That they went with me is amazing to me.

"I think in any other circumstance, if Roger had four days off,
he'd definitely be the guy to take the bump," he said. "This
isn't a must-win. I think they wanted to give Roger an extra day.
If we'd lost last night, I guess they'd go with Roger."

Garner said he weighed all sorts of factors for a while.

"I thought about it for quite a bit. The process was a day or
two. And then you sit around and you think a little bit more," he
said. "I think you can overthink it, you can see all kinds of

"Asking Roger to come back on short days two of three starts,
I'm not sure if that's the right move. All things considered, I
think it's best to let him pitch on his fifth day."

Carpenter working his way back
If the Cardinals make it to the World Series, there's a chance right-hander Chris Carpenter might be available to pitch.

Carpenter, sidelined since Sept. 18 with nerve damage to his right
biceps, threw 26 pitches off the bullpen mound on Tuesday, a
day after his latest favorable exam and a week after he was cleared
to resume playing catch. If the Cardinals avert elimination in Game
6 on Wednesday, he's scheduled to throw again on Thursday.

"We wanted to see how the throwing he's done affected the nerve
and it hasn't at all," trainer Barry Weinberg said. "He's been
recovering really well."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.