Expos 6, Astros 5, 12 innings

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MONTREAL (AP)—The Montreal Expos are a confident team these days. Not even blowing a ninth-inning lead and falling behind in extras can discourage them.

Alex Gonzalez hit a tying homer in the 12th inning and Terrmel Sledge singled in the winning run, giving Montreal a 6-5 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Morgan Ensberg hit a leadoff homer on the first pitch from Claudio Vargas (5-4) to put Houston up 5-4 in the top of the 12th.

“I looked around the dugout and everyone was still upbeat,” Sledge said about the mood going into the bottom half. “It seems like we just don’t quit now. A couple of months ago we probably would just let it slide but now it seems like we don’t give up.”

Down to their last out, the Expos’ Gonzalez homered over the center-field wall on a 2-0 pitch from Chad Harville (0-2), who also blew a save opportunity against Montreal on Saturday.

Jose Vidro and Tony Batista then walked and Sledge lined a single to left-center. The Expos streamed from the dugout to mob Vidro, who scored, and Sledge as Montreal extended its season-high winning streak to six.

Brad Wilkerson went 4-for-6 with two doubles and a homer for the Expos, who have won nine of 12 and 15 of 20.

“It was a crazy game but we came up with some clutch hits there at the end,” Wilkerson said. “We didn’t quit. Two outs, nobody on and down a run after a long game like that, it says something for a team to get a clutch hit like Gonzalez got and have two great at-bats and have Sledge come up with the clutch hit.”

Montreal’s Jon Rauch became just the second pitcher to homer off Roger Clemens before an injury forced him to abandon a no-hit bid with two outs in the fifth.

“I don’t know if I want to tell that story to anybody or not,” Rauch said. “I’ll just leave it at that. I hit a home run off Roger Clemens for my first big league hit and we’ll stop it there.”

The Astros, 0-50 when trailing after eight, tied it in the ninth on homers by Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent off closer Chad Cordero.

“We came back really strong and I thought we had a chance to win the game,” said bench coach John Tamargo, Houston’s acting manager while Phil Garner served a one-game suspension handed down earlier in the day.

Trailing 4-1, Beltran hit a leadoff homer. Jeff Bagwell struck out looking before Lance Berkman doubled. Kent tied it at 4 with a shot off a speaker suspended from Olympic Stadium’s roof high above left field for a home run.

“I didn’t even look back,” Cordero said. “As soon as he hit it, I knew it was out.”

Rauch hit a two-run homer over the wall in the right-field corner in the second to join Shawn Estes as the only pitchers to connect off Clemens in the future Hall of Famer’s 21-year career.

“I could care less, a homer is a homer,” Clemens said.

Wilkerson homered two pitches later to put Montreal up 4-0.

Rauch walked one while holding Houston hitless through the first four innings.

The 6-foot-11 right-hander retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth before hunching over in pain after throwing a called strike on his first pitch to Jose Vizcaino.

Assistant trainer Tim Abraham and manager Frank Robinson rushed to his attention at the mound. Rauch threw one warmup pitch and immediately indicated that he could not continue.

T.J. Tucker replaced Rauch and got Vizcaino to ground back to the mound to keep the Astros hitless through five.

Brad Ausmus lined a single to center on Tucker’s first pitch of the sixth to break up the no-hitter.

Lance Berkman appeared to get the Astros’ first hit with two outs in the fourth on a drive past the net that serves as a foul pole down the left-field line.

Third-base umpire Dan Iassogna signaled a home run, though television replays clearly showed the ball was foul.

Expos manager Frank Robinson came out of the dugout and Berkman continued around the bases as the umpiring crew gathered to confer around Iassogna.

Berkman touched home plate and walked to the dugout before Iassogna signaled a foul ball.

Notes

Estes, then with the New York Mets, homered off Clemens on June 15, 2002, against the Yankees at Shea Stadium. … Rauch is the first Expos player to homer for his first major league hit since Tomas de la Rosa accomplished the feat on July 28, 2000.

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