Series: Game 2 of 4

Cincinnati leads 2-0 (as of 5/22)

Game 1: Friday, May 21
Game 2: Saturday, May 22
Game 3: Sunday, May 23
Game 4: Monday, May 24

Astros 7

(24-18, 12-7 away)

Reds 8

(24-18, 13-7 home)

    7:10 PM ET, May 22, 2004

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 000041101 7 15 0
    CIN 01302002 - 8 12 0

    W: T. Jones (3-1)

    L: B. Lidge (0-2)

    S: D. Graves (20)

    Clemens' 5 innings worst outing of season

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Third baseman Juan Castro raised his dirt-covered glove to show the ball safely inside, ending a game and starting a celebration.

    In that joyous moment, Roger Clemens was an afterthought.

    Clemens lasted only five innings in his worst NL outing, and Houston's bullpen got roughed up as well, allowing the Cincinnati Reds to rally for an emotional 8-7 victory Saturday night.

    Sean Casey and Ken Griffey Jr. had run-scoring doubles in the eighth off Brad Lidge (0-1) for Cincinnati's seventh victory in eight games, pushing the Reds a season-high six games over .500.

    It wasn't secure until Castro made a diving, backhand catch of Jose Vizcaino's slicing liner with two runners aboard, stretching as far as he could.

    "I didn't know until I held it in my glove and saw it inside," Castro said.

    With that, the Reds forged a three-way tie atop the NL Central with the Astros and Cubs, two teams expected to leave them in the dust.

    "Nobody gave us a chance," Griffey said. "We just wanted to come out at the beginning of spring training and make the people of Cincinnati very proud of this baseball team. So far, we're having a lot of fun doing it."

    The only thing that didn't slip away from Houston was The Rocket's streak. The six-time Cy Young winner has won his last 11 decisions, a string that started Sept. 11. He didn't lose for the Yankees in the playoffs, either.

    The Astros had to dig deep to leave him with no decision and preserve his 7-0 record.

    Clemens gave up a season-high six runs in his shortest outing since switching leagues. He warmed his famous fastball up to 95 mph, but couldn't keep an inspired team down.

    "It was disappointing," said Clemens, who threw a season-high 105 pitches. "I have to be better than that next time. I felt I let the team down."

    Adam Dunn's two-run double in the third inning set the tone and pumped up the crowd of 41,890, the Reds' first full house since opening day.

    The Astros trailed 6-4 in the top of the sixth when Clemens left for pinch-hitter Mike Lamb, whose homer started another comeback. Richard Hidalgo's sacrifice fly in the seventh off Todd Jones (3-1) tied the game and got Clemens off the hook.

    From there, it was up to the bullpens. Cincinnati's was just a bit better.

    Danny Graves pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances, but had a close call of his own. Morgan Ensberg's RBI single cut it to 8-7, but Lance Berkman was caught in a rundown as he tried to score the tying run from third on Hidalgo's grounder to Castro.

    Then, Castro ended it with a diving flourish.

    Four days after 40-year-old Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game, Clemens struggled mightily to extend his own age-defying feat.

    Clemens, who came out of a brief retirement to pitch for his hometown team at 41, surpassed all expectations by winning his first seven starts in dominating fashion.

    That streak ended when the bullpen blew a late lead against the Mets last Sunday, leaving him with a no-decision but an unblemished record.

    The Reds were determined to take care of that, too. A scrawled pregame message on their clubhouse board said, "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Clemens 7-1."

    For five innings, optimism was enough.

    The Reds sent nine batters to the plate for three runs in the third, pulling ahead 4-0. Dunn's bases-loaded double capped the rally and drew one of the loudest ovations in Great American Ball Park's two seasons.

    Clemens shook his head and muttered to himself as he slowly walked off the mound, head down, after the inning.

    His teammates gave him a reprieve, tying it in the fifth on Jeff Kent's two-run double and Berkman's two-run homer.

    Once again, Clemens wasn't up to it. The Reds scored twice in the bottom of the inning.

    Down 6-4, The Rocket was done. His ERA jumped from a major league-leading 1.72 to 2.51.

    The only thing that Clemens won was the game's marquee matchup. He got Griffey on a called third strike, then struck him out swinging at a belt-high, 88 mph fastball. Griffey also flied out.

    Coming into the game, Griffey had a .360 career average against Clemens with six homers, his second-highest total off any pitcher.

    Game notes

    Clemens had never pitched at Great American, the major league park closest to his birthplace of Dayton, Ohio. ... Reds 3B Brandon Larson was supposed to start a rehab stint with Double-A Chattanooga, but he came down with the flu. Larson has been on the DL twice, this time with a torn thigh muscle. ... Dunn is 4-for-4 in his career off Clemens.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press