HOUSTON (AP) -- Already trailing 3-0 after the first inning,
Roger Clemens sidled up to Astros manager Phil Garner in the dugout
and warned him to get ready for a long afternoon.
Most days, that's an insurmountable deficit for the worst
offense in the majors. On Sunday, Houston erased it by the second
inning and finally gave their ace some run support.
"They've been getting beat up all over town," Clemens said of
his usually punchless lineup. "They really picked me up today."
Willy Taveras had a career-high four hits and Lane went 2-for-3
with two RBI to help Clemens (4-3) overcome some early struggles
and outlast St. Louis lefty Mark Mulder, who lost his second
straight after a seven-game winning streak.
Russ Springer and Dan Wheeler combined to pitch three scoreless
innings and Brad Lidge got the final three outs for his 13th save
in 15 chances, snapping Houston's five-game losing streak to the NL
Clemens won despite enduring his worst outing of the season,
allowing four runs on nine hits in five innings. He struck out four
and walked one for his first victory since May 14 against San
"Rocket wasn't what he has been. He struggled a little,"
Garner said. "But you're going to have games like that. This was a
nice job of bouncing back."
This rematch between Clemens and Mulder had none of the pitching
dominance from their duel on April 23, when Mulder fired a
10-inning, four-hitter in St. Louis' 1-0 win. Clemens also didn't
allow a run that day, giving up four hits in seven innings.
This time, neither had much success on the mound.
David Eckstein had a leadoff walk, Jim Edmonds singled and
Albert Pujols followed with a run-scoring single. With runners at
second and third and one out, Mark Grudzielanek doubled in two more
runs to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
"I told Phil, 'It's going to be a grind," Clemens said,
recalling his mid-inning chat with Garner. "I told him to take a
couple of aspirin and let's go."
But Mulder quickly coughed up the lead to the Astros, who had
scored only 18 runs in Clemens' previous 11 starts.
Taveras had a leadoff single, Chris Burke doubled and Craig
Biggio scored Taveras on a sacrifice fly. Lance Berkman followed
with an RBI on a fielders' choice that drove in Burke, who eluded
the tag at home plate.
Ensberg then hit a towering 384-foot shot to left that gave
Houston its first lead of the series, 4-3. Lane added to the lead
with a solo homer, his first in a month.
"The homers killed me. They are what did me in," Mulder said.
"I felt great in the bullpen. I just didn't do much of job from
then on. I guess I lost it on the jog in."
The improbable offensive display from the Astros, last in the
majors in scoring, even drew a standing ovation from the crowd of
St. Louis chipped into the lead with Mulder's sacrifice fly in
the second, but his struggles on the mound continued.
Lane had an RBI single in the third to put Houston up 6-4. Then
Mulder started the fourth by walking Clemens and was chased from
the game after a bunt by Taveras. Al Reyes entered, and retired
three straight batters to end the inning.
Mulder (7-3) tied a season high by allowing six runs on eight
hits in three innings, his shortest outing of the year. He had one
walk and failed to get a strikeout for the first time this season.
"He didn't have his great stuff," Cardinals manager Tony La
Russa said. "He couldn't make his pitches and he paid the price.
He made a lot of location mistakes."
Clemens, meanwhile, retired eight of nine batters before John
Mabry singled to lead off the sixth. The Rocket, who's been
pitching through a minor groin strain, was then taken out for
He left the game, as usual, to a round of hearty applause.
"You notice we didn't get anything after the second," La Russa
said. "That's why he's won over 300 games. He knows how to win
when everything doesn't fall into place."
Taveras left at the start of the seventh inning with a strained
left hamstring. He's considered day to day.
Ensberg's 12 homers ranks him second among NL third basemen
behind Arizona's Troy Glaus. ... Mulder allowed back-to-back homers
for the second straight game. Colorado's Dustan Mohr and Todd
Greene connected against Mulder in the fourth inning on May 31. ...
The Astros hit back-to-back homers for the fourth time this season.
... The Astros won with the roof closed at Minute Maid Park for the
first time in four games this season.