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St. Louis at Houston

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Astros complete four-game sweep of Cards; Clemens gets no-decision

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens waved to Houston's fans for the final time this season. Then, the rest of the Astros gave the sellout crowd even more to cheer about on Sunday night.

Clemens struck out six in five innings and Aubrey Huff hit a three-run homer in the seventh as the Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3 to complete a four-game sweep.

"It was a great deal of fun," Clemens said. "I wish we could take these last four crowds we've had here with us on the road."

Clemens got a no-decision in his 689th career start. He left before the Cardinals batted in the sixth inning, with the Astros leading 3-1. The Houston infield gathered around the Rocket before manager Phil Garner replaced him with left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

Clemens tipped his cap and waved to the cheering crowd in what may have been the second-to-last start of the season -- and his 23-year career. The 44-year-old Clemens has not said whether he'll return in 2007.

Clemens said he was focused on pitching Sunday night, not his future.

"I knew what was at stake," he said. "You don't want to be the one to drop the ball. Your energy and your concentration has to be at its highest."

Clemens had plenty of family in the stands, but said that's no indication that this was a farewell performance. Neither was his cap-doffing.

"I'm not going to say a whole lot right now," Clemens said. "I just threw my hands and really, tipped my cap to the crowd for them, not for me. I was tipping my cap to them for all they've done while we're at home."

Clemens walked off with similar fanfare Wednesday, which most expected to be his last start at Minute Maid Park. But after he threw six scoreless innings against Cincinnati, Garner asked Clemens if he could pitch again Sunday and Clemens said he'd be ready.

Fans bought about 4,000 tickets for the home finale on Friday to secure the 26th sellout of the season.

Sunday's crowd of 43,704 was the third largest for a regular season game at the seven-year-old ballpark. Clemens' first start this season, against Minnesota on June 22, drew the record crowd of 43,769.

The seven-time Cy Young winner expects to pitch one more time this season, probably in Atlanta on Friday.

Clemens said his arm "felt a little heavy" early in Sunday's game and Chris Duncan, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen hit three straight singles in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.

During the inning, catcher Brad Ausmus visited the mound and told Clemens that his pitches still had plenty of zip. The Rocket then struck out five Cardinals between the second and fourth.

"He was strong," said Ausmus. "He actually maybe was a little too strong in the beginning and had trouble locating because of it. But he got better and better."

John Rodriguez also had an RBI single for the Cardinals, who've lost nine of their last 10 road games. Their magic number to clinch the NL Central remains stuck on five.

Manager Tony La Russa tried to stay positive.

"What we did great was we had four very tough losses and every night we came out and played," he said. "I give our club a lot of credit for that and I have terrific respect, because that's hard to do."

Ausmus had a two-run double for the Astros, who've won five in a row and closed to within 3½ games of the Cardinals in the division. The Astros remain five behind Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race. They play the Phillies on Monday.

"Right now, it's started to feel like we're playing pretty good ball," Garner said. "We've got to play our best baseball and this is starting to look like pretty good baseball here."

Huff capped a four-run seventh with his 12th homer of the season off St. Louis reliever Randy Flores.

Pinch hitter Eric Bruntlett led off with a double to left and Craig Biggio beat out a bunt off Josh Hancock (3-3). Flores relieved and Bruntlett snapped a 3-3 tie when he scored on Lance Berkman's slow grounder to second baseman Ronnie Belliard. While Bruntlett crossed the plate, Belliard missed a tag on Biggio before throwing out Berkman at first, which would've been an inning-ending double play.

Luke Scott, who homered twice on Saturday, walked before Huff hit a towering shot into the right-field seats. Huff, a former Tampa Bay Devil Ray, called the homer one of the most memorable of his career.

"It's right up there," he said. "I can't remember a crowd packed when I had a home run like that. To come out and have 40,000 people is special to me. I'm not used to that."

Chad Qualls (7-3) struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win.

Rodriguez's single off Brad Lidge in the sixth scored Duncan and cut Houston's lead to 3-2.

Lidge walked Yadier Molina in the seventh and was replaced by Trever Miller. Pinch hitter Scott Spiezio singled and pinch-hitter Belliard grounded out to score Molina and tie the game.

Earlier, Ausmus' double down the left-field line in the fourth put Houston up 2-1. Mike Lamb tripled to right center in the fifth and scored on Berkman's sacrifice fly to left, his career-best 129th RBI.

Notes

  • The retractable roof at Minute Maid Park stayed open for the second time since June 2. The roof was also open for Monday's game against Cincinnati.
  • The Astros topped 3 million in attendance for the second time in three seasons.
  • SS David Eckstein left in the fifth inning with a strained left hamstring.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Roger Clemens strikes out six in five innings  in what may be his final regular-season home game.  (AP)
Roger Clemens strikes out six in five innings in what may be his final regular-season home game. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

C. Duncan
AB 2
R 2
H 1
HR 0
RBI 0
Houston

A. Huff
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
 

Related Video

St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS3000000 .293
    Jose Vizcaino, SS0000000 .225
   a- Ronnie Belliard, PH-2B2011000 .275
Chris Duncan, RF2210211 .302
    Josh Hancock, P0000000 .000
    Randy Flores, P0000000 .000
    Brad Thompson, P0000000 .500
   b- Preston Wilson, PH1000011 .260
Albert Pujols, 1B3020111 .329
Scott Rolen, 3B4011025 .297
John Rodriguez, LF-RF4011011 .305
Juan Encarnacion, CF4010012 .280
Aaron Miles, 2B-SS4000022 .265
Yadier Molina, C2000101 .215
    John Nelson, PR0100000 .000
    Gary Bennett, C1000000 .227
Jeff Weaver, P2000021 .143
   c- Scott Spiezio, PH-LF2010010 .270
Totals3438341215 
a-grounded out for Vizcaino in the 7th
b-struck out for Thompson in the 9th
c-singled for Weaver in the 7th
Batting
2B - Ronnie Belliard (29, Wheeler)
RBI - Ronnie Belliard (63), Scott Rolen (92), John Rodriguez (19)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Pujols-Eckstein
St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Weaver 6733250 5.79
Josh Hancock (L,3-3)0222000 3.96
Randy Flores 0.2122111 5.45
Brad Thompson 1.1100030 3.65
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Weaver 88-54, Josh Hancock 5-3, Randy Flores 13-5, Brad Thompson 20-14
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Weaver 5-7, Randy Flores 1-0, Brad Thompson 1-0
Batters Faced - Jeff Weaver 26, Josh Hancock 2, Randy Flores 4, Brad Thompson 5
Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B5120011 .247
    Dan Wheeler, P0000000 .000
Mike Lamb, 3B3120001 .306
   a- Morgan Ensberg, PH-3B1000012 .235
Lance Berkman, 1B2002100 .318
Luke Scott, LF3210102 .368
Aubrey Huff, RF3223102 .262
    Charlton Jimerson, RF0000000 .250
Chris Burke, CF-2B4010023 .276
Adam Everett, SS3000024 .238
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
   b- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000010 .243
    Willy Taveras, CF0000000 .279
Brad Ausmus, C4012012 .230
Roger Clemens, P2000012 .080
    Wandy Rodriguez, P0000000 .081
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
    Trever Miller, P0000000 .000
    Eric Bruntlett, SS2120000 .283
Totals3371173919 
a-struck out for Lamb in the 7th
b-struck out for Qualls in the 8th
Batting
2B - Mike Lamb (21, Weaver), Luke Scott (19, Weaver), Brad Ausmus (16, Weaver), Eric Bruntlett (8, Hancock)
3B - Mike Lamb (3, Weaver)
HR - Aubrey Huff (20, Flores)
SF - Lance Berkman (8)
RBI - Lance Berkman 2 (130), Aubrey Huff 3 (64), Brad Ausmus 2 (38)
2-OUT RBI - Aubrey Huff 3 (25), Brad Ausmus 2 (7)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Clemens-Everett-Berkman
Houston Astros
Roger Clemens 5411160 2.35
Wandy Rodriguez0011100 5.56
Brad Lidge (H,4) 1211110 5.56
Trever Miller (BS,1) 0.2100110 3.02
Chad Qualls (W,7-3) 1.1000020 3.89
Dan Wheeler 1100020 2.55
IBB - Pujols by Trever Miller
Pitches-Strikes - Roger Clemens 76-55, Wandy Rodriguez 6-2, Brad Lidge 19-13, Trever Miller 13-8, Chad Qualls 19-13, Dan Wheeler 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roger Clemens 4-4, Brad Lidge 1-1, Trever Miller 1-0, Chad Qualls 2-0
Batters Faced - Roger Clemens 19, Wandy Rodriguez 1, Brad Lidge 6, Trever Miller 4, Chad Qualls 4, Dan Wheeler 4
Game Information
Attendance - 43704
Game Time - 3:09
Temperature - 74
Umpires - Home - Hunter Wendelstedt, First Base - Chris Guccione, Second Base - Angel Hernandez, Third Base - Sam Holbrook