HOUSTON -- Taylor Buchholz knows he's one of the starters who may be taken out of the Houston Astros' rotation to make room for Roger Clemens.
And if the 24-year-old rookie's start Saturday night was his last one for a while, it was a good one.
Buchholz allowed two hits in six innings and Lance Berkman had a double and four RBI to lead the Astros to a 7-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Astros manager Phil Garner says he hasn't decided which pitcher he'll move to the bullpen or send to the minors when Clemens joins the team on Thursday. Buchholz would seem to be a prime candidate, though, with only 12 career starts and the Astros' 2-8 record in his last 10.
"I don't even want to think about that right now," Buchholz said. "I guess I'll find out soon enough."
Buchholz (4-6) made one last push to keep his job, striking out six with only one walk to snap a personal three-game losing streak.
"You know something's going to happen. I don't know what," Buchholz said. "It's definitely in the back of your mind."
Mike Lamb had an RBI single and scored three runs as the Astros won for the ninth time in 12 games and improved to 24-15 at Minute Maid Park.
Berkman went 3-for-4, capping his day with a double to left-center in the eighth that scored Lamb and Chris Burke.
Instead of taking ground balls before the game, Berkman was lounging in the Astros' clubhouse and watching Rice, his alma mater, beat Georgia in the College World Series.
"Today was different, because Rice was in the College World Series," he said. "I figured I was allowed one free pass."
Dan Wheeler pitched a perfect eighth and Russ Springer retired the Royals in order in the ninth to earn his first save.
Doug Mientkiewicz and Paul Bako had RBI for the Royals, who've dropped six of their last eight.
For the second straight night, the Royals took a 1-0 lead over the Astros in the first inning.
David DeJesus doubled to right-center on Buchholz's second pitch. DeJesus went to third on Mark Grudzielanek's fly out, then scored on Mientkiewicz's sacrifice fly.
Buchholz allowed runs in the first inning for the fourth time in eight starts and the Astros had lost the previous three.
"I've always kind of been like that," Buchholz said. "Usually, my bad innings are the first or second and then I've been able to get locked in after that.
"I guess I've got to go out there and relax," he said, "but it's easier said than done, when you're in front of 40,000 people."
Houston answered in the bottom of the first off Royals starter Bobby Keppel (0-3). Lamb, batting .348 since May 26, doubled down the right-field line with one out and later scored on Berkman's single to right.
Adam Everett opened the second inning with a single up the middle, went to second on Buchholz's bunt and scored on Lamb's single to right, giving the Astros their first lead of the series. Everett added an RBI single in the third.
Royals' starters are 9-35 this season.
"I didn't pitch well," said Keppel, a rookie making his fourth career start. "A starting pitcher took our team right out of the game. It's just frustrating I didn't do anything right."
Buchholz, meanwhile, sharpened after the first inning, retiring the next eight Royals he faced before walking Emil Brown in the fourth. Buchholz fanned Matt Stairs, his fourth strikeout, to end the inning.
"They have a nice young pitcher over there, that's for sure," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said.
Mark Teahen led off the fifth with a double and eventually scored on Bako's grounder to Craig Biggio. The Astros' second baseman had a chance to throw home for a play on Teahen, but opted for the easy out at first.
When Ausmus and Everett opened the sixth inning with singles, Garner called Buchholz back to the dugout and sent in pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro. Palmeiro grounded into a double play, though, and Biggio flew out to end the inning.
Chad Qualls replaced Buchholz and the Royals threatened in the seventh.
Brown beat out a grounder to Everett before Stairs drove a double off the wall in left-center. Qualls fielded a chopper from Teahen and fired to Ausmus, who tagged out Brown at the plate.
"That turned the inning," Garner said. "He moved quickly and deftly."
Qualls hit Angel Berroa with a pitch to load the bases, but Bako grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Berkman and Preston Wilson had RBI singles in the seventh off Royals reliever Andrew Sisco.
The Royals fell to 2-11 in the second games of road series. ... Berkman has 595 RBI since 2001, tops among switch hitters in that span. ... Ensberg went 0-for-2 with three walks in his first start since bruising his right shoulder against Atlanta on June 9. ... Everett's three hits tied his career high.
|Players of the Game|
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|Kansas City Royals|
|David DeJesus, CF||4||1||1||0||0||1||0||.263|
|Mark Grudzielanek, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.295|
|Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B||3||0||0||1||0||1||0||.268|
|Emil Brown, RF||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||.271|
|Matt Stairs, LF||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.250|
|Esteban German, PR-LF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.316|
|Andrew Sisco, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Joel Peralta, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Tony Graffanino, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.231|
|Mark Teahen, 3B||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.236|
|Angel Berroa, SS||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.252|
|Paul Bako, C||3||0||0||1||0||1||1||.257|
|Bob Keppel, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000|
|Todd Wellemeyer, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Kerry Robinson, LF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.266|
|a-struck out for Peralta in the 9th|
|2B - David DeJesus (5, Buchholz), Matt Stairs (9, Qualls), Mark Teahen (4, Buchholz)|
|SF - Doug Mientkiewicz (3)|
|RBI - Doug Mientkiewicz (22), Paul Bako (6)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|Outfield Assists - Emil Brown 1|
|DP - Grudzielanek-Berroa-Mientkiewicz|
|Kansas City Royals|
|Bob Keppel (L,0-3)||3||5||3||3||4||2||0||3.64|
|IBB - Ensberg by Andrew Sisco|
|Pitches-Strikes - Bob Keppel 68-0, Todd Wellemeyer 41-0, Andrew Sisco 34-0, Joel Peralta 11-0|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Bob Keppel 3-4, Todd Wellemeyer 3-2, Andrew Sisco 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Bob Keppel 18, Todd Wellemeyer 11, Andrew Sisco 9, Joel Peralta 3|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||5||0||0||0||0||1||2||.279|
|Eric Bruntlett, RF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.278|
|Mike Lamb, 1B-3B||4||3||3||1||1||0||0||.349|
|Chris Burke, CF-2B||2||2||0||0||3||1||1||.303|
|Lance Berkman, RF-1B||4||0||3||4||1||1||0||.314|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||2||1||0||0||3||1||1||.253|
|Russ Springer, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Preston Wilson, LF||4||0||1||1||0||1||5||.276|
|Brad Ausmus, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||7||.285|
|Adam Everett, SS||4||1||3||1||0||0||2||.227|
|Taylor Buchholz, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.040|
|a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.214|
|Chad Qualls, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Willy Taveras, PH-CF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.267|
|a-grounded into a double play for Buchholz in the 6th|
|b-struck out for Wheeler in the 8th|
|2B - Mike Lamb 2 (8, Keppel, Sisco), Lance Berkman (12, Peralta)|
|SH - Taylor Buchholz (4)|
|RBI - Mike Lamb (15), Lance Berkman 4 (60), Preston Wilson (36), Adam Everett (26)|
|2-OUT RBI - Mike Lamb (8), Lance Berkman 2 (17), Adam Everett (13)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Biggio-Everett-Lamb|
|Taylor Buchholz (W,4-6)||6||2||2||2||1||6||0||5.82|
|Chad Qualls (H,9)||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||3.72|
|Dan Wheeler (H,11)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||4.34|
|HBP - Berroa (by Chad Qualls)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Taylor Buchholz 81-0, Chad Qualls 14-0, Dan Wheeler 9-0, Russ Springer 17-0|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Taylor Buchholz 8-4, Chad Qualls 2-0, Dan Wheeler 3-0|
|Batters Faced - Taylor Buchholz 21, Chad Qualls 5, Dan Wheeler 3, Russ Springer 3|
|Attendance - 39048|
|Game Time - 2:47|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Mike Muchlinski, First Base - Phil Cuzzi, Second Base - Brian O'Nora, Third Base - Chuck Meriwether|