Astros complete sweep of Redbirds

Monday, September 25, 2006

St. Louis' magic number remained at five after its fifth straight loss.

HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens struck out six in his final home start of the season and Aubrey Huff hit a three-run homer as the Houston Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3 on Sunday night to complete a four-game sweep.

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 next season.

Manager Phil Garner said before the game he expects Clemens to make one more start this week.

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.

Scott Rolen and John Rodriguez had RBI singles 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.

Brad Ausmus had a two-run double for the Astros, who've won five in a row and closed to within 3 1/2 games of the Cardinals in the division. The Astros remain five behind Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race.

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.

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 Chris 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 Ronnie Belliard grounded out to score Molina and tie the game.

Duncan, Pujols and Rolen hit three straight singles off Clemens in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.

Clemens sharpened after that, striking out five Cardinals between the second and fourth.

Scott, who homered twice on Saturday, led off the Astros' fourth with a double to right. Huff walked before Ausmus doubled down the left-field line to put the Astros up 2-1. Ausmus, a .230 hitter, is 13-for-36 with nine RBIs in the last 10 games Clemens has started.

Mike Lamb tripled to right center in the fifth and scored on Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly to left, his career-best 129th RBI.

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