Astros 7, Cardinals 5

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Roger Clemens shut down the St. Louis Cardinals’ potent offense, doing his part to keep the Houston Astros in the NL wild-card race.

Clemens won his 327th game with seven strong innings and the Astros held on for a 7-5 victory on Tuesday night.

The Cardinals’ 3-4-5-6 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with four strikeouts against Clemens.

“He was fantastic,” manager Phil Garner said. “He did a super job.”

Lance Berkman matched a career high with four hits, including a three-run double that highlighted a five-run fourth. The Astros have won 15 of 18 and remained a game behind San Francisco, 3-2 winners at Milwaukee, and a half-game back of the Cubs, who beat Pittsburgh 3-2 in 12 innings, for the wild card.

Tony Womack had three hits, a stolen base and scored on a first-inning double play for St. Louis, which has lost five of seven.

“We made a good run at it,” manager Tony La Russa said. “I know they were worried at the end and we were excited, but it’s tough getting down to a great pitcher.”

Clemens (17-4) passed Eddie Plank and moved one win behind John Clarkson (1882-94) for 10th, while improving to 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this year. He’s tied with teammate Roy Oswalt and the Marlins’ Carl Pavano for the NL victory lead and is tied for the major league lead in winning percentage with the Athletics’ Mark Mulder, also 17-4.

“The hitters gave me a nice cushion and it was my job to go out there and keep the lead and throw strikes,” said Clemens, who matched his win total from last season for the Yankees. “That’s all I was trying to do.

“I was just real fortunate we scored just enough runs, as it turns out.”

Clemens, who allowed one run on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks, is 10-1 with a 3.53 ERA against the NL Central. His only trouble came in the first when Womack reached on a leadoff infield hit, went to third on a hit-and-run single by Larry Walker and scored on Albert Pujols’ double-play ball.

Russ Springer pitched the eighth and Darren Oliver gave up two hits and a walk, including Mike Matheny’s RBI single in the ninth before being relieved by Dan Miceli with two outs.

Cody McKay greeted Miceli with a two-run double. Pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders then hit a popup and shortstop Eric Bruntlett and third baseman Mike Lamb collided, letting the ball drop for an error on Bruntlett and allowing McKay to score to make it 7-5.

Brad Lidge entered with Sanders on second and intentionally walked Pujols after falling behind in the count 3-1. The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch before So Taguchi struck out for Lidge’s 23rd save in 25 chances.

“I haven’t seen a popup like that fall like that in I can’t remember when,” Garner said. “That was a little unusual. Other than that, it’s just another day at work.”

A leadoff double by Jeff Kent, who had three hits, and a one-out RBI single by Jose Vizcaino off Jeff Suppan (15-7) tied the score in the second.

The Astros took the lead in the third when Carlos Beltran tripled and scored on a groundout by Jeff Bagwell. Houston batted around in the fourth, including a bases-loaded walk by Bagwell and an RBI double by Kent, but none of the runs were earned following Pujols’ two-out fielding error on Beltran’s tapper to first.

“The bottom line is I have to get out of the inning,” Suppan said. “If I was able to do that I think it would have been a different outcome with the way we fought back and played in the ninth.”

Suppan, who won his six previous starts, gave up sven runs—two earned—on 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings to lose for the first time since July 23 against the Giants. It was the second-shortest outing of season for Suppan, who also lost to Clemens and the Astros on April 13 in St. Louis.

He’s 9-0 with a 3.17 ERA on the road, but 6-7 at home with a 4.66 ERA.

Notes

The Cardinals received approval from major league baseball to begin selling tickets for the postseason on Sept. 22. … Vizcaino went 1-for-2 Tuesday against Suppan and is 13-for-18 against him in his career. … Suppan is 1-3 against the Astros with a 3.04 ERA this year. … Craig Biggio singled twice and is batting .338 (22-for-65) during a 14-game hitting streak. … Scott Rolen, the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter, missed his third straight game with a pulled left calf muscle.

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