Originally created 09/09/04

Clemens, Astros continue charge



HOUSTON - Roger Clemens got his 326th win to tie Eddie Plank for 11th on the career list, and the Houston Astros hit four first-inning home runs to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-2 on Wednesday and tie a team record with their 12th straight win.

Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Mike Lamb homered in the first off Jose Acevedo (5-11). Houston is on its longest winning streak since taking 12 in a row from Sept. 3-14, 1999 and has won 20 of 23 since Aug. 15, the best record in the major leagues over that stretch.

The Astros, who began the day a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League wild-card race, tied Tampa Bay (June 9-22) for the longest win streak in the major leagues this season. Cincinnati has lost 10 of 12.

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 RBI sacrifice fly, and Cincinnati managed only three singles over Clemens' next six innings. The Rocket finished with six strikeouts and two walks.

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.

MARLINS 3, METS 0

In Miami, Josh Beckett pitched eight innings and blanked New York for his second start in a row, and Florida matched a franchise record with its ninth consecutive victory.

The Mets have lost 11 straight, including six since last week to Florida, and haven't had a lead in 58 innings. New York is on its longest losing streak since dropping 12 in a row from Aug. 10-23, 2002.

Paul Lo Duca hit a two-run homer for the Marlins, who beat New York for the 10th straight time, a franchise record for Florida against any opponent.

Beckett (7-8) pitched a six-hit shutout against the Mets last week for the first regular-season complete game of his career. This time he, allowed four hits, struck out nine and walked two.

Armando Benitez pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 41st save. The former Mets closer has 11 saves against New York this season.

The Marlins matched a season high by climbing 10 games over .500 for the first time since May 30. The winning streak is their longest since May 6-14, 1996, the only other time they won nine in a row.

PADRES 10, CARDINALS 5

In San Diego, Matt Morris' bummer of an afternoon was a boon to David Wells and San Diego.

Backed by home runs by Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko, Wells pitched seven strong innings and even drove in two runs to lead the Padres to the win.

The Padres, in the playoff chase for the first time since 1998, won two of three against the Cardinals, baseball's best team. It was a remarkable feat, considering that the Padres have won just eight of 42 games against the Cardinals since the start of the 1999 season.

They won this one by getting a strong performance from the 41-year-old Wells and by knocking out Morris (15-9) before the right-hander got an out in the third inning.

Wells (10-7) held the Cardinals to two runs and three hits while striking out six and walking none.

After giving up So Taguchi's two-run homer with one out in the third, Wells allowed only one other baserunner - when he committed a fielding error on Albert Pujols' nubber down the first-base line with two outs in the sixth.

Morris was coming off a career-best two-hit shutout against NL West-leading Los Angeles, but he was lifted after allowing Klesko's two-run shot to right that gave the Padres a 7-2 lead.

It was just the seventh for Klesko, who's struggled at the Padres' new downtown ballpark.

TWINS 9, ORIOLES 0

In Baltimore, Johan Santana pitched seven innings of five-hit ball for his 10th straight victory, and Matt LeCroy homered to cap a seven-run second inning that carried Minnesota past Baltimore.

Santana (17-6) struck out nine and walked none before leaving with a 9-0 lead. He is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 11 and has a 1.38 ERA since the All-Star break.

Santana got more than enough offensive support from his teammates, who reached double figures in hits (12) for the first time in seven games. Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter had three hits apiece, and LeCroy drove in three runs for the Twins, headed to their third straight American League Central title.

The Twins sent 10 batters to the plate in the second inning, scoring six unearned runs following an error by shortstop Melvin Mora.

700 club

Barry Bonds1986-now
698

Hank Aaron1954-1976
755

Babe Ruth1914-1935
714

Sources: Staff, The Associated Press