Series: Game 4 of 4

Houston won 3-1

Game 1: Monday, June 21
Game 2: Tuesday, June 22
Game 3: Wednesday, June 23
Game 4: Thursday, June 24

Pirates 2

(27-42, 16-20 away)

Astros 3

(38-34, 20-19 home)

    8:05 PM ET, June 24, 2004

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    PIT 000020000 2 5 1
    HOU 10100010 - 3 5 0

    W: R. Clemens (10-2)

    L: S. Burnett (0-2)

    S: B. Lidge (3)

    Rocket bounces back from two-game skid

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Roger Clemens got back on track, Carlos Beltran is on the way and Brad Lidge looked good as a closer.

    The Houston Astros sure had a big night.

    Roger Clemens
    Starting pitcher
    Houston Astros
    14 95.2 10-2 38 101 2.73

    Clemens became the first 10-game winner in the majors and Morgan Ensberg hit a go-ahead single in the seventh inning, leading the Astros to a 3-2 victory Thursday night over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    During the game, Houston acquired Beltran from Kansas City as part of a three-team trade that also sent closer Octavio Dotel from the Astros to Oakland. Houston hopes its new star center fielder will join the team in time for Friday night's game at Texas.

    "They're trying to give us that little extra edge," said Craig Biggio, who probably will shift from center to left to make room for Beltran. "It's going to be fun."

    Clemens (10-2) earned his 320th win, moving within four of Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton for 12th place on the career list. The Rocket allowed two runs -- one earned -- and four hits in seven innings. He also had four strikeouts, giving him 4,200 for his career, second only to Ryan's 5,714.

    "Those first nine wins weren't as easy as they looked to some people," Clemens said. "Tonight wasn't easy, either. It's a long road and sometimes you just try to stay the course."

    Ensberg went 2-for-3 with the tiebreaking single and scored twice, helping Houston move back into fourth place in the NL Central for the first time in nearly two weeks.

    It was the perfect finish to the Astros' longest homestand of the season.

    "We have something to build on here," manager Jimy Williams said, "and hopefully it will continue."

    Pittsburgh, which ended a five-game skid Wednesday, has lost 15 of 18.

    Pirates starter Sean Burnett (1-1), who was only 20 months old when Clemens made his major league debut with Boston in 1984, fared well in his third major league start but couldn't get the win.

    The 21-year-old right hander went seven innings, allowing only three runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out one.

    "I just wanted to compete and make it look like I belonged out there," Burnett said. "I've been looking forward to this the last couple of days. For a guy, 21 years old, to go up against Roger Clemens ... I may never get another chance."

    Clemens bounced back nicely from a two-game skid during which he allowed 10 runs and 19 hits in losses to the Chicago Cubs and Anaheim.

    He struggled early, loading the bases in the second after walking Jason Bay and Abraham Nunez and giving up a single to Tike Redman. But Burnett struck out swinging, and the Rocket was never in trouble again.

    Clemens' final strikeout of the night -- a 95 mph fastball that had Bay swinging wildly -- brought the crowd of 39,851 to its feet.

    Dan Miceli pitched a scoreless eighth to set up Lidge, who heard about the trade just after the start of the game. He made an impressive debut as the Astros' new closer.

    Lidge got Craig Wilson to pop up to center, then struck out Rob Mackowiak and Bay to earn his third save of the season. The crowd cheered as Lidge made his way to the dugout.

    "It was extremely exciting," Lidge said. "It felt great to end the game that way."

    The trade of Dotel leaves Lidge as the Astros' closer -- for now. Asked if Houston might bring in a veteran relief ace, general manager Gerry Hunsicker cracked a smile and said: "We'll see what tomorrow brings."

    Jeff Kent singled in Ensberg in the first and third to give the Astros an early 2-0 lead before Pittsburgh rallied in the fifth.

    Redman led off with a single, stole a base, then scored on Abraham Nunez's single to left. Nunez advanced to second on Burnett's sacrifice bunt, went to third on Jason Kendall's single and scored on a passed ball.

    But Ensberg's RBI single in the seventh put the Astros back on top to stay.

    Game notes

    Each team finished with five hits, all singles. ... The Houston crowd applauded briefly when the Beltran trade was announced. ... The Pirates and Astros won't face each other again until Sept. 3 in Houston. ... Pittsburgh is 7-31 at Minute Maid Park.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press