Astros 1, Mariners 0

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SEATTLE (AP)—Roger Clemens is still unbeaten, still moving up the career victories list and still putting on a great show.

Clemens became the oldest pitcher to win his first nine decisions, allowing three hits in 6 2-3 shutout innings Tuesday night to lead the Houston Astros over the Seattle Mariners 1-0.

“They’re coming in good spots,” Clemens said. “We just need to continue to play well. The wins are great. When they come in situations like this, where you get one run in two days and get a split, that’s nice.”

The 41-year-old Clemens (9-0), backed by Morgan Ensberg’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly off Joel Pineiro (1-8), got his 319th win to move past Phil Niekro into sole possession of 14th place on the career list.

“The guys I’ve tied or passed, it’s just icing on the cake for me,” said Clemens, who came out of a brief retirement to pitch for his hometown Astros. “I felt anything that happened this year was just a great deal of fun. I never expected to be here.”

The six-time Cy Young Award winner struck out seven, increasing his total to 4,187, and walked a season-high five. Clemens improved to 23-14 against Seattle, the most wins by a pitcher against the Mariners.

“When I was little, I had a poster of him in my room. Not a bad guy to look up to,” said Pineiro, who pitched a strong game but lost his career-high seventh straight decision.

A crowd of 34,238 gave Clemens a standing ovation when he left in the seventh.

“It’s really nice. I’ve enjoyed coming to Seattle,” Clemens said. “I’ve had some fun in the old stadium and this stadium. I don’t know that you would consider tonight a lot of fun. It wasn’t comfortable at any point.”

Houston’s 1-0 lead held up when Brad Lidge got the final out of the seventh and escaped a jam in the eighth.

Lidge gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to John Olerud, but got Bret Boone on a fly to shallow right, then struck out Scott Spiezio and pinch-hitter Dave Hansen. The Mariners, who had won three in a row, stranded 12 runners.

“I never like to make it interesting,” Lidge said. “That’s the kind of situation we don’t like to be in, but our bullpen has done a fantastic job of getting out of jams and everybody has contributed.”

Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances. Seattle put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth on singles by Dan Wilson and Randy Winn, but Dotel struck out Edgar Martinez.

Pineiro nearly matched Clemens. He allowed three hits in eight innings, struck out four and walked three.

Houston scored in the seventh after Jeff Bagwell singled and Jeff Kent walked. The runners moved up on Lance Berkman’s fly to deep center, and Bagwell tagged when Ensberg flied to shallow left.

Winn made the catch and threw to Wilson, who made the touch on Bagwell at the plate before the ball rolled loose. Bagwell overslid, but alertly jumped back to the plate just as Pineiro picked up the ball and barely missed tagging him out.

“I was just trying to get around the tag. I thought I tagged home plate the first time,” Bagwell said.

Said Wilson: “To lose the game on a play like that at home has got to be frustrating for Joel. It (the ball) came out at some point on the ground. It was a weird play. I don’t know what happened.”

Seattle almost tied it in the eighth when Olerud reached third on his 35-year-old legs because center fielder Craig Biggio misjudged the ball by coming in too close. It soared over him and rolled to the wall.

Biggio was not charged with an error.

Clemens made it interesting, too. He opened the seventh by hitting Hiram Bocachica with a pitch, and Bocachica made a great play by sliding into Jose Vizcaino to break up a likely double play when Ichiro Suzuki grounded to shortstop.

That was it for Clemens, who threw 118 pitches.

“We were real fortunate,” Clemens said. “The play at home was a nice break for us. Baggy got back and touched home. He said the first time he hit it. From that point on, Brad and I tried to be as stingy as we could.”

Clemens began to miss in the fifth, when Seattle loaded the bases with two outs. Martinez had fans on their feet when he lofted the first pitch from Clemens to right field, but it was a harmless fly.

Seattle missed another chance in the sixth. Boone hit a one-out double and Spiezio walked on four pitches. Clemens briefly looked vulnerable, but he got Rich Aurilia to fly out and struck out Wilson looking.

“We had more opportunities than they did,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. “They only had three hits. We definitely had more chances but couldn’t come through when we had to.”

Houston missed a chance to score in the second. Kent led off with a ground rule double that extended his career-high hitting streak to 23 games. Hereached third on a groundout by Ensberg but the Astros couldn’t bring him in.

Notes

Suzuki went 0-for-4 with a walk, ending his 14-game hitting streak. … Houston manager Jimy Williams is three wins from 900. … Bocachica made a diving backhanded catch to steal a hit from Brad Ausmus in the eighth. … Kent’s 23-game hitting streak tied him with Moises Alou (2001), Art Howe (1981) and Luis Gonzalez (1997) for second place in Astros history. Tony Eusebio (2000) holds the team record, a 24-game streak. … Nolan Ryan and Don Suttonare tied for 12th with 324 wins.

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