HOUSTON (AP) -- Octavio Dotel watched in baffled silence as Ray
Lankford trotted home with the winning run.
Jason Isringhausen didn't know what was going on at all,
emerging from the tunnel in St. Louis' dugout only when he heard
his teammates' perplexed whoops.Lankford scored on Dotel's balk in the 10th inning and the
Cardinals thwarted the Astros' late rally with a 2-1 win Friday
night."I think (that it's) one of the worse calls I've ever seen,"
said Dotel, who was ejected for arguing after he realized what
happened. "It's something that I've never seen before."A pitching duel between Houston's Roger Clemens and St. Louis'
Chris Carpenter was overshadowed by the game's wacky and thrilling
ending.Dotel (0-3) walked Lankford to start the 10th, and Scott Rolen
singled to send Lankford to third. With Jim Edmonds at the plate,
Dotel appeared to start his windup and then quickly stepped off the
mound.Third-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled it was a balk,
allowing Lankford to score the winning run.The crowd booed as Houston manager Jimy Williams trotted across
the field to protest. Dotel raised both arms in confusion, while
the Cardinals rushed out to greet Lankford."We'll take it anyway we can get it," Lankford said. "(Dotel)
moved, then stepped off. The umpire saw it and we got a break. You
have to depend on luck sometimes."Isringhausen (3-1) gave up three hits -- including Lance
Berkman's RBI double in the ninth inning -- in two innings and got
the improbable win.Carpenter allowed only a pair of singles and held the NL's top
offense scoreless for eight innings, and nearly earned his fifth
straight win until the frantic finale.Clemens went seven innings, allowing six hits and a
fourth-inning homer to Rolen. He struck out six."That was two great pitchers out there," St. Louis manager
Tony La Russa said. "This was a tough game for hitters with those
couple of pitchers."Rolen's shot looked like it might be the only run as both
pitchers and defenses clamped down in the final innings.But with one out in the ninth, Isringhausen allowed a leadoff
single to Jeff Kent, and Berkman doubled to right to tie it.
Berkman went to third on the throw as Kent crossed home, but Mike
Lamb struck out swinging, and Morgan Ensberg flied out to end the
Astros' scoring threat.Isringhausen was so upset about blowing the win for Carpenter,
that he spent much of the bottom of the 10th stewing deep inside
the Cardinals' dugout."You can't get much better than he was tonight," said
Isringhausen, who blew his third save in 12 chances. "It made me
mad that I didn't save the win for him."Clemens remained stuck at 317 career wins, one behind Phil
Niekro for 14th place on the career list after two no-decisions in
his last two starts.St. Louis had other opportunities to put the game out of reach --
the Cardinals left 10 men on base -- but Clemens and Brad Lidge kept
the Astros in it until the end.Clemens worked his way out of a jam in the sixth with no outs
and Edmonds on third base. Edgar Renteria followed with a
groundout, John Mabry lined a shot right into Kent's glove and Mike
Matheny whiffed at Clemens' 91 mph changeup to end the inning.Clemens finished with a season-high 123 pitches, 79 for strikes."That's the way it goes. I was grinding out there," Clemens
said. "I felt good ... it was a great battle. I tried to be as
stingy as possible."
Astros shortstop Adam Everett made a tremendous diving grab
of Albert Pujols' hit in the third, popped up quickly and narrowly
threw out Pujols at first base for the final out of the inning. ...
The Astros had their seventh sellout of the season, one more than
they had the entire 2003 season. Clemens has been on the mound for
four of them. ... Kent extended his hitting streak to 13 games,
tying a career high.