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Lidge gives up three runs in the ninth

HOUSTON (AP) -- Looking at Daryle Ward's paltry career numbers
against Roger Clemens, Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon thought
it would be a good idea to give his first baseman a game off.

McClendon called on Ward to pinch hit in the seventh inning and
he grounded out to Clemens.

But Ward had better luck against closer Brad Lidge.

Ward hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth, Jason Bay followed
with a two-run shot and the Houston Astros' bullpen blew another
win for Clemens in a 6-4 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday night.

"He didn't start because he's had bad numbers against Roger,"
McClendon said of Ward. "But Daryle's been swinging the bat
extremely well."

Ward, who played with the Astros from 1998-2002, led off the
ninth by sending Brad Lidge's 1-0 pitch deep into the right-field
seats for a 4-3 lead.

Lidge (1-1) walked Matt Lawton on the next at-bat and struck out
Tike Redman but gave up another homer to Bay. It was the first time
Lidge failed to convert a save since Sept. 12, ending a streak of
13 straight saves.

"Obviously I didn't have my best stuff," said Lidge, sidelined
for several days last week with pneumonia. "I need to buildup my
arm strength and I need to figure out a way to get guys out when I
don't have my best stuff. I just don't have zip on the ball right
now."

Salomon Torres (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the win,
and Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 10th save in as many
chances. Mesa has saved every win by the Pirates this season.

The Pirates closed their three-game series against the Astros
with two straight wins -- Pittsburgh has just four wins in the past
24 games in Houston.

"I don't think anyone in baseball gave us a chance ... to win
this game with Roger Clemens pitching," McClendon said. "I don't
know what the odds were in Las Vegas, but I bet they weren't very
good."

The Astros now head on a seven-game trip to NL East leaders
Atlanta and Florida. Houston has a road mark of 1-10, ahead of only
Colorado (1-13) for worst in the majors.

Houston could be bolstered, however, by the return of All-Star
outfielder Lance Berkman.

Berkman, who has missed a month while recovering from offseason
knee surgery, will end his minor league rehab assignment and join
the team in Atlanta on Thursday. Astros manager Phil Garner said
Berkman could be activated from the disabled list before Friday's
game against the Braves.

Meanwhile, Clemens was denied in his fifth straight bid to win
his 330th game, remaining tied with Steve Carlton for ninth place
on the career. He allowed two runs and four hits with eight
strikeouts and a season-high five walks.

The Rocket hasn't won since his season-debut against Cincinnati
on April 8, mostly because of an offense that has scored only nine
runs with him on the mound this season. He drove in two of those in
the win against the Reds.

"We haven't scored enough runs for him. I don't know why,"
Astros shortstop Adam Everett said. "It's just one of those things
right now. We can't seem to pull them across when he's pitching."

For a rare treat, the Astros gave Clemens an early cushion
against Pittsburgh.

Mike Lamb, who last week moved into the lineup for struggling
rookie outfielder Luke Scott, tripled in two runs in the first to
give Houston a 2-0 lead. Craig Biggio added a RBI single in the
third.

Pittsburgh rallied behind David Ross' RBI double in the fourth
and Matt Lawton's run-scoring single in the seventh. Chad Qualls
reliever to start the eighth, got into a bases-loaded jam and Lidge
followed. On the next at-bat, Ross tied the game 3-all with a
sacrifice fly.

"The only upsetting thing is our team is not getting wins,"
said Clemens, just 1-1 despite a 1.29 ERA. "I've got enough wins
beside my name."

Game notes
Ross tied a career high with two doubles. ... Astros 1B
Jeff Bagwell was out of the lineup with a sore right shoulder. He
was replaced in the lineup with Jose Vizcaino. Bagwell is
considered day to day. ... Clemens has reached base in his last
four plate appearances, including three hits. He's batting .364
this season. ... Houston has played its last 14 games against NL
Central opponents. That streak ends at Atlanta on Thursday.