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NL: Clemens, Astros keep rising

Associated Press
Published September 4, 2004

HOUSTON - Tiring with each pitch and feeling a twinge in his achy right calf, Roger Clemens needed help in the seventh inning.

The Rocket got a timely lift from his teammates for his 325th career win, and the surging Astros won their season-high seventh in a row, 8-6 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

"I almost felt like it was two different games out there," Clemens said. "I was out there looking for a third win."

Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio and Jose Vizcaino homered for Houston, which has won 10 of 11 and closed within 21/2 games of the Cubs, the wild-card leader.

Clemens, who won his third straight start, passed Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton for 12th place on the career wins list.

He took a 7-0 lead into the seventh inning but tired and wound up allowing four runs and six hits in 62/3. He even added a run-scoring single in the sixth for his seventh RBI of the season, chasing Pittsburgh starter Oliver Perez.

"Roger's a stud and he'll let you know when he think he's done," said Astros bench coach John Tamargo, filling in for suspended manager Phil Garner. "He knows what he's doing out there. If he's tired, he'll tell you."

Jose Castillo hit a two-run single, and Bobby Hill and Jason Kendall hit run-scoring singles off the laboring Clemens. Russ Springer gave up a two-run triple to Jack Wilson that cut the Astros' lead to 7-6.

"He might've gotten a little tired in the seventh," said Wilson, who went 1-for-4 with two RBIs. "In that inning he was just a little off, and we were able to take advantage of that."

But Craig Wilson popped out to second for the final out of the inning. Former Devil Ray Dan Wheeler pitched a perfect eighth and Brad Lidge got three outs for his 19th save in 22 chances.

Clemens improved to 3-0 against the Pirates. He got plenty of help from the Astros offense, which has scored at least seven in its past seven games.

"I didn't think I'd need that many runs," Clemens said. "Turns out, it was very welcomed. They gave me a cushion I didn't think I'd need at the time."

CARDINALS 3, DODGERS 0: Matt Morris pitched a two-hitter and struck out a season-high 11, leading host St. Louis to its seventh straight win in a matchup of division leaders.

Reggie Sanders homered, doubled and had two RBIs. Mike Matheny also homered for the Cardinals, who have won 11 of 13 overall and are a major-league-best 90-44.

Morris won his third straight start and walked none, pitching the lowest-hit complete game of his career.

PHILLIES 8, METS 1: Gavin Floyd, the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft, made the most of his major-league debut, holding visiting New York to four hits over seven innings and sending it to its seventh straight loss.

Pat Burrell helped out, homering in his first game since Aug. 3. Jason Michaels homered twice and Placido Polanco also homered for Philadelphia, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

PADRES 7, ROCKIES 6: Phil Nevin hit a three-run homer with two outs in the seventh, and host San Diego rallied from a five-run deficit. The Padres, in a tight wild-card race, trailed 5-4 before Nevin drove an 0-and-2 pitch from rookie Scott Dohmann an estimated 421 feet into the Padres bullpen beyond the centerfield fence.

BRAVES 7, EXPOS 1: Paul Byrd pitched eight strong innings and Eli Marrero homered to help visiting Atlanta win its fourth in a row. Byrd held Montreal scoreless into the eighth before Maicer Izturis hit a leadoff triple and scored on pinch-hitter Ryan Church's grounder.

BREWERS 11, REDS 4: Geoff Jenkins and Wes Helms drove in three each and Scott Podsednik tied a career high with four hits to lead host Milwaukee.

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