Final in 13

Series: Game 3 of 3

NY Mets won 2-1

Game 1: Friday, May 14
NY Mets8Final
Houston3
Game 2: Saturday, May 15
NY Mets4Final
Houston7
Game 3: Sunday, May 16
NY Mets3Final
in 13
Houston2

Mets 3

(18-20, 10-12 away)

Astros 2

(22-15, 12-11 home)

2:05 PM ET, May 16, 2004

Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

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NYM 00000020001 3 7 1
HOU 00010000000 2 14 0

W: D. Wheeler (2-0)

L: B. Backe (1-1)

Rocket: 7 shutout innings, no 8th win

HOUSTON (AP) -- Mike Piazza waited until the brink of defeat to ruin Roger Clemens' afternoon.

Piazza spoiled Clemens' bid for his eighth straight win with a tying homer in the ninth inning off Octavio Dotel, and the New York Mets beat the Houston Astros 3-2 Sunday on Jason Phillips' 13th-inning home run.

"We had the right guy up at the right time," Mets manager Art Howe said. "You've got to give Mike all the credit in the world. That's big-time. Two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning. We might have stolen this one."

After Clemens struck out 10 in seven shutout innings, the Mets rallied in the ninth against Dotel. Eric Valent led off with a double, and two outs later, Piazza hit a 1-2 pitch over the right-center fence and into the Astros' bullpen to tie it.

That ended Clemens' chance to become the first pitcher since Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1997 to win his first eight starts of the season. Dotel blew his second save in three outings.

The Rocket allowed only two hits and singled with the bases loaded in the sixth, the fifth RBI of his career. He lowered his ERA to a major league-leading 1.72.

"There's no doubt he was dominating us," Piazza said. "Anytime you've got a chance to win the game, it's a good feeling. Fortunately, I got a pitch to hit and I didn't miss it."

A sellout crowd of 43,247 came out for one of Clemens' most dominant performances in a remarkable comeback season. In their head-to-head matchup, Piazza went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk -- the only one Clemens allowed.

Clemens brought a little heat to their simmering rivalry: he threw a 92 mph fastball high and inside to Piazza in the second, forcing the All-Star slugger to take a step back.

Clemens beaned Piazza during the 2000 season, then threw the barrel of a broken bat near him in the World Series that year.

Playing first base, Piazza tagged Clemens out on a bunt in the second. After Clemens' single, the two didn't speak during a pitching change, with Piazza chatting with first-base umpire Mark Wegner instead.

Clemens didn't have much to say about Piazza afterward.

"I think he's a good hitter. You have to pitch him away," Clemens said before bolting quickly out of the clubhouse.

Phillips, who has struggled all season and didn't enter the game until the 10th, connected against Brandon Backe (1-1) for his first home run since Aug. 20.

"I wouldn't have even played if (Piazza) hadn't hit his home run," Phillips said. "I've seen that guy do amazing things time and time again. We were pinching ourselves on the bench to see if it really happened."

Dan Wheeler (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

The 41-year-old Clemens really got rolling in the third inning, striking out six straight batters. He retired 11 in a row before Todd Zeile singled in the seventh.

The Rocket has 21 strikeouts in his last two starts.

"I hope you guys are enjoying watching this guy," Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "He's a special player."

The Astros loaded the bases in the sixth on a single by Brad Ausmus and a questionable call on a play at second base by umpire Larry Young.

Replays showed that Mets second baseman Danny Garcia appeared to tag Morgan Ensberg for the final out of the inning, but Young ruled Ensberg was safe. The call enraged Howe, who was ejected after vigorously arguing with the umpires for several minutes.

"In the back of his mind, I think he knew that he missed the call," Howe said. "That's why he gave me every chance to stay in the game. There was only one way I was going to leave."

Clemens then singled in Jeff Kent to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.

However, the Astros struggled to capitalize on their scoring opportunities, totaling 13 hits and leaving a season-high 17 on base.

"We pretty much outplayed them in every aspect of the game except the win column," Houston center fielder Craig Biggio said. "It's very disappointing. We had it and just weren't able to capitalize when we needed to."

Matt Ginter, called up from Triple-A Norfolk to make his first major league start, allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings against the NL's top-hitting team. But he was lifted after Clemens' RBI single.

Notes: Ginter, called up to start in place of ailing Al Leiter, got the first hit of his major league career against Clemens in the second inning. The right-hander singled to left for the Mets' first hit of the game. Leiter has tendinitis in his left shoulder but is expected to pitch next weekend against Colorado. ... It was Clemens' 106th career game with at least 10 strikeouts. ... It was the fifth sellout of the season at Minute Maid Park, four with Clemens on the mound.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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