Astros 5, Reds 2
HOUSTON (AP)—With two World Series rings and plenty of postseason experience over his 21-year career, Roger Clemens knows a lot about winning.
But the Houston Astros’ furious push for the playoffs has left even The Rocket at a loss for a comparison.
Clemens got his 326th win to tie Eddie Plank for 11th on the career list, and the Astros hit four first-inning home runs to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-2 Wednesday and move into the NL wild-card lead with their 12th straight win.
“I’ve been on clubs throughout my career who’ve won quite a few in a row,” Clemens said, “but I don’t know if it’s ever been like this.”
Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Mike Lamb homered in the first off Jose Acevedo (5-11), sending Houston on its longest winning streak since taking a team-record 12 in a row from Sept. 3-14, 1999.
Houston has won 20 of 23 since Aug. 15 for the best record in the major leagues over that stretch.
“We’re on a nice roll right now,” Bagwell said. “It’s kind of been amazing to me, all the home runs we’re hitting. I’ve never seen it quite like this.”
The Astros are a percentage point ahead of San Francisco and half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs in the NL wild-card race, and they tied Tampa Bay (June 9-22) for the longest win streak in the major leagues this season. Cincinnati continued its late-season swoon, losing for the 10th time in 12 games
Clemens (16-4) won his fourth straight start, allowing four hits in seven innings. He gave up his only run in the first on Sean Casey’s sacrifice fly, and Cincinnati managed only three singles over Clemens’ next six innings. The Rocket finished with six strikeouts and two walks.
“Give credit to the hitters. They’ve come alive and made it … easier for the pitchers,” Clemens said.
Chad Qualls, Mike Gallo and Russ Springer pitched in the eighth, with D’Angelo Jimenez hitting an RBI single off Springer, and Brad Lidge got three outs for his 21st save in 24 chances. With runners at the corners and two outs, Lidge struck out Juan Castro to end the game.
Biggio hit a leadoff homer, and Bagwell and Berkman hit consecutive drives with one out in the first. Jeff Kent walked, and Lamb connected for a 5-1 lead.
“We took a breather,” quipped Houston manager Phil Garner.
Acevedo, who’s been shuttled back and forth from the bullpen over the past three weeks, was sullen following what was easily his worst outing of the season.
“I’ve got to find another way to pitch these guys,” Acevedo said. “It’s like they knew what was coming. There’s just not much you can do against a team that’s hitting like that.”
Reds slugger Adam Dunn was left awed by the Astros’ power-hitting display during the three-game sweep.
“It’s not like these games have been close,” Dunn said. “They have been beating teams by touchdowns. This is the right time of the year for them.”
Houston has beaten Cincinnati eight straight games, outscoring the Reds 68-25 during that stretch.
Biggio extended his NL record of leadoff homers to 39. … Bagwell, who went 3-for-3, hit his 443rd career homer, moving past Dave Kingman into 28th place. … Lamb also had three hits. … Acevedo became the first Reds’ pitcher to allow four homers in an inning since Jeff Austin on May 28 last year. … Berkman moved from right to center field for the Astros in place of Carlos Beltran, who was out of Wednesday’s starting lineup with a bruised right elbow. Beltran pinch hit in the eighth and grounded out.