Final

Series: Game 2 of 3

Houston leads 2-0 (as of 5/5)

Game 1: Tuesday, May 4
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Houston4
Game 2: Wednesday, May 5
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Houston6
Game 3: Thursday, May 6
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Pirates 2

(12-13, 8-6 away)

Astros 6

(17-10, 9-7 home)

    8:05 PM ET, May 5, 2004

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

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    PIT 002000000 2 5 0
    HOU 10301100 - 6 10 1

    W: R. Clemens (6-0)

    L: K. Wells (2-4)

    Clemens fans nine to pass Carlton

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Roger Clemens slowly made his way through the clubhouse, smiling widely and shaking hands with the few teammates that had waited around for him.

    Jeff Bagwell even had some news for the old guy.

    The 3,000-strikeout club (x-active)
    Nolan Ryan 5,714
    x-Roger Clemens 4,140
    Steve Carlton 4,136
    x-Randy Johnson 3,922
    Bert Blyleven 3,701
    Tom Seaver 3,640
    Don Sutton 3,574
    Gaylord Perry 3,534
    Walter Johnson 3,508
    Phil Niekro 3,342
    Ferguson Jenkins 3,192
    Bob Gibson 3,117

    "You never struck me out," Bagwell quipped.

    Fewer and fewer veterans are able to say that.

    Clemens moved into second place on the career strikeouts list behind fellow Houston-area native Nolan Ryan, and became first six-game winner in the major leagues, leading the Astros over Pittsburgh 6-2 Wednesday night.

    Clemens struck out Raul Mondesi swinging in the fifth inning to pass Hall of Fame left-hander Steve Carlton with No. 4,137.

    He finished the night with nine strikeouts to run his career total to 4,140.

    "I think what (Ryan) did was amazing," Clemens said. "Obviously, I won't make it that long. Right now, I'm mentally drained from the game I just had. It seems to get tougher and tougher."

    Just like The Rocket, now 41 and seemingly getting better with each start.

    A crowd of 35,883 -- the Astros' first home non-sellout with Clemens on the mound -- gave Clemens a long standing ovation after he fired a 89 mph split-fingered pitch past Mondesi to move into second place.

    Clemens (6-0) briefly acknowledged the cheers by tipping his cap to the fans.

    Soon after, Clemens added No. 4,138 by getting Craig Wilson swinging at a similar pitch. He struck out two more batters in the sixth before leaving the game.

    Ryan, a native of nearby Alvin, tops the strikeout list with 5,714.

    "(Clemens) is one of those rare cats to pitch as long as he has and put up all those crooked numbers," Astros manager Jimy Williams said.

    Clemens won his 316th career game, putting him only two behind Phil Niekro for 14th place. He gave up two runs on five hits.

    "It was pretty exciting moment in baseball," said Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson. "The energy that he brought to the game was something you could feel. He was pretty pumped up."

    Jeff Kent, Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg each drove in two runs to lead the Astros to their 12th victory in 13 games against the Pirates.

    Kip Wells (2-4) dropped his third straight start, allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings. The right-hander from Houston -- just like his boyhood idol, Clemens -- struggled against the NL's top-hitting team.

    With the bases loaded in the first inning, Wells gave up a single to Berkman that scored Adam Everett. He worked his way out of that jam, but found himself with three men on base again in the third.

    Ensberg, whose .186 batting average is worst among Houston's starters, had a two-run single that gave Houston a 4-2 lead. Kent led off the fifth with a solo homer and tripled in Craig Biggio an inning later.

    "Obviously, the strikeout thing was a distraction to our guys," Wells said. "They were not wanting to strike out. (Clemens) struck out nine in six innings and I don't think he would tell you that he pitched that great."

    Maybe not, but Wednesday night capped quite a week of buildup for Clemens.

    Clemens, selected NL pitcher of the month on Monday, slowly made his way into a postgame news conference, carrying a bag full of gifts.

    He reached in the bag and gave a uniform and cap to Astros owner Drayton McClane, one of the game balls to his wife, Debbie, and a couple of caps to his two oldest sons, Koby and Kory.

    It's hard to imagine a better homecoming from a guy who ended his career -- albeit for only 78 days -- after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins last October.

    "This is where I grew up," Clemens said, nearly breaking down in tears. "There were people in the park tonight who watched me in high school. I'm happy I got to get it in front of them." ^Notes:@ Astros reliever Chad Harville left the game with a strained right hamstring after facing only one batter in the seventh inning. He was placed on the 15-day DL and was replaced on the roster by ... Pittsburgh dropped to 6-27 at Minute Maid Park.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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