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Clemens strikes out seven in pitchers duel

SEATTLE (AP) -- Roger Clemens is still unbeaten, still moving up
the career victories list and still putting on a great show.

Clemens became the oldest pitcher to win his first nine
decisions, allowing three hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings Tuesday
night to lead the Houston Astros over the Seattle Mariners 1-0.

"They're coming in good spots," Clemens said. "We just need
to continue to play well. The wins are great. When they come in
situations like this, where you get one run in two days and get a
split, that's nice."

Forty-one-year-old Clemens (9-0), backed by Morgan Ensberg's
seventh-inning sacrifice fly off Joel Pineiro (1-8), got his 319th
win to move past Phil Niekro into sole possession of 14th place on
the career list.

"The guys I've tied or passed, it's just icing on the cake for
me," said Clemens, who came out of a brief retirement to pitch for
his hometown Astros. "I felt anything that happened this year was
just a great deal of fun. I never expected to be here."

The six-time Cy Young Award winner struck out seven, increasing
his total to 4,187, and walked a season-high five. Clemens improved
to 23-14 against Seattle, the most wins by a pitcher against the
Mariners.

"When I was little, I had a poster of him in my room. Not a bad
guy to look up to," said Pineiro, who pitched a strong game but
lost his career-high seventh straight decision.

A crowd of 34,238 gave Clemens a standing ovation when he left
in the seventh.

"It's really nice. I've enjoyed coming to Seattle," Clemens
said. "I've had some fun in the old stadium and this stadium. I
don't know that you would consider tonight a lot of fun. It wasn't
comfortable at any point."

Houston's 1-0 lead held up when Brad Lidge got the final out of
the seventh and escaped a jam in the eighth.

Lidge gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to John Olerud, but
got Bret Boone on a fly to shallow right, then struck out Scott Spiezio and pinch-hitter Dave Hansen. The Mariners, who had won
three in a row, stranded 12 runners.

"I never like to make it interesting," Lidge said. "That's
the kind of situation we don't like to be in, but our bullpen has
done a fantastic job of getting out of jams and everybody has
contributed."

Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances.
Seattle put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth
on singles by Dan Wilson and Randy Winn, but Dotel struck out Edgar Martinez.

Pineiro nearly matched Clemens. He allowed three hits in eight
innings, struck out four and walked three.

Houston scored in the seventh after Jeff Bagwell singled and
Jeff Kent walked. The runners moved up on Lance Berkman's fly to
deep center, and Bagwell tagged when Ensberg flied to shallow left.

Winn made the catch and threw to Wilson, who made the touch on
Bagwell at the plate before the ball rolled loose. Bagwell
overslid, but alertly jumped back to the plate just as Pineiro
picked up the ball and barely missed tagging him out.

"I was just trying to get around the tag. I thought I tagged
home plate the first time," Bagwell said.

Said Wilson: "To lose the game on a play like that at home has
got to be frustrating for Joel. It [the ball] came out at some
point on the ground. It was a weird play. I don't know what
happened."

Seattle almost tied it in the eighth when Olerud reached third
on his 35-year-old legs because center fielder Craig Biggio
misjudged the ball by coming in too close. It soared over him and
rolled to the wall.

Biggio was not charged with an error.

Clemens made it interesting, too. He opened the seventh by
hitting Hiram Bocachica with a pitch, and Bocachica made a great
play by sliding into Jose Vizcaino to break up a likely double play
when Ichiro Suzuki grounded to shortstop.

That was it for Clemens, who threw 118 pitches.

"We were real fortunate," Clemens said. "The play at home was
a nice break for us. Baggy got back and touched home. He said the
first time he hit it. From that point on, Brad and I tried to be as
stingy as we could."

Clemens began to miss in the fifth, when Seattle loaded the
bases with two outs. Martinez had fans on their feet when he lofted
the first pitch from Clemens to right field, but it was a harmless
fly.

Seattle missed another chance in the sixth. Boone hit a one-out
double and Spiezio walked on four pitches. Clemens briefly looked
vulnerable, but he got Rich Aurilia to fly out and struck out
Wilson looking.

"We had more opportunities than they did," Seattle manager Bob
Melvin said. "They only had three hits. We definitely had more
chances, but couldn't come through when we had to."

Houston missed a chance to score in the second. Kent led off
with a ground rule double that extended his career-high hitting
streak to 23 games. He reached third on a groundout by Ensberg but
the Astros couldn't bring him in.

Game notes
Suzuki went 0-for-4 with a walk, ending his 14-game hitting
streak. ... Houston manager Jimy Williams is three wins from 900.
... Bocachica made a diving backhanded catch to steal a hit from
Brad Ausmus in the eighth. ... Kent's 23-game hitting streak tied
him with Moises Alou (2001), Art Howe (1981) and Luis Gonzalez
(1997) for second place in Astros history. Tony Eusebio (2000)
holds the team record, a 24-game streak. ... Nolan Ryan and Don
Sutton are tied for 12th with 324 wins.