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Tavarez returns from tantrum, injury for win

ST. LOUIS (ESPN.com news services) -- Jim Edmonds skipped around the bases, jumping
into a cluster of St. Louis Cardinals waiting for him at home
plate.
Now, waiting for all of them is Roger Clemens in an
all-or-nothing Game 7.

Edmonds blasted a two-run homer in the 12th inning and the
rejuvenated Cardinals turned Busch Stadium into a red frenzy,
beating the Houston Astros 6-4 Wednesday to even the NL
Championship Series at 3-all.

"We all watched TV as kids. We all hear all the stuff you guys
say and write and show us. I finally get to play in a Game 7,"
Edmonds said.

"I think how much better does it get? Game 7 vs. Roger
Clemens," he said.

After Jeff Bagwell's two-out single in the ninth off Cardinals
closer Jason Isringhausen tied it at 4, Edmonds won it with a
one-out shot off Dan Miceli.

Bagwell didn't even bother watching as Edmonds' shot sailed way
over the St. Louis bullpen in right field. The star first baseman
simply walked across the field while the Cardinals streamed out of
the dugout.

"A very winnable game for us, so I'm disappointed," Astros
manager Phil Garner said. "Haven't given much thought to
tomorrow's game, only that I had scheduled the Rocket to go."

Clemens came out of retirement for the sole purpose of pitching
his hometown Astros into their first World Series. Now, the
42-year-old ace will get that chance Thursday night when he starts
against former Boston teammate Jeff Suppan.

"What's there to say?" Clemens said, excusing himself to go
watch Game 7 of the ALCS in which Boston beat New York 10-3. "We've got
to win tomorrow."

The Cardinals have won a best-of-seven series each time they have trailed 3-2, a total of five times. The Cardinals managed the feat in four World Series: in 1926 against New York, in '34 over Detroit, in '46 versus Boston, in the '82 World Series against Milwaukee. St. Louis came back in the NLCS once, in 1987 against San Francisco.

It will be will Clemens' fourth career start in a Game 7 -- he's
1-0 in those outings after getting knocked out early last year in
the ALCS for the Yankees.

"I've never seen him pitch when he wasn't tough to beat,"
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "It shapes up to be a
terrific matchup."

St. Louis is 6-0, including Wednesday's victory, when facing elimination at home in postseason games since 1969.

Righty Julian Tavarez went two innings for the victory. He
pitched with a left hand that he broke in a dugout tantrum in
Houston.

"It's my understanding that it's the fingers that are broken as
opposed to the hand, so I'm not surprised. He did throw well,"
Garner said.

The Cardinals won a postseason game in extra innings for the
first time since the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

Miceli came on after Astros superman Brad Lidge blew away St.
Louis for three perfect innings, striking out five.

"Of course you want him out of there," St. Louis' Albert
Pujols said.

Pujols drew a leadoff walk and one out later Edmonds connected
for his second homer of the NLCS.

Pujols got the Cardinals started with a two-run homer in the
first off Pete Munro. The journeyman pitched so that Clemens would
not have to work on three days' rest.

The Cardinals took a 4-3 lead into the ninth, but Isringhausen
immediately put himself in jeopardy by hitting pinch-hitter Morgan
Ensberg leading off. A bunt moved Ensberg to second and Craig
Biggio hit a fly ball for the second out.

That brought up the marvelous Carlos Beltran, and the Cardinals
huddled on the mound. A big cheer broke out in the sellout crowd of
52,144 when catcher Mike Matheny signaled for an intentional walk.

Bagwell foiled the strategy, hitting a hard RBI single on the
first pitch. After a double steal, Isringhausen managed to keep it
tied by striking out Lance Berkman.

In the bottom half, Lidge retired the first two batters before
throwing a fastball over the head of Edmonds.

La Russa came out of the dugout to discuss the pitch with plate
umpire Ed Rapuano. Before the game, the manager angrily confronted
baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson behind the batting cage, steamed
that Tavarez was fined $10,000 for a pitch over Bagwell's helmet in
Game 4.

"The only thing I was upset about was MLB made this ridiculous
ruling about Tavarez," La Russa said.

After hitting only .161 in three straight losses at Minute Maid
Park, the Cardinals quickly found their stroke at Busch Stadium.

Pujols put St. Louis ahead with his sixth homer of the
postseason, a two-run shot, and later added a double and single. He
scored twice, and was nailed at the plate another time when he ran
through a coach's stop sign.

Beltran, continuing to build his October resume, hit two balls
off the right-field wall and both times was held to a single by
right fielder Larry Walker's fast relay. Beltran scored twice, and
his 20 runs broke Barry Bonds' postseason record of 18 set in 2002.

Mike Lamb, starting at third base in place of the struggling
Ensberg, hit a solo homer off Matt Morris in the fourth that made
it 4-3.

Game notes
Through six games of the NLCS, the Astros and Cardinals have the same batting average (.246), runs scored (29) and ERA (4.80) ... Brandon Backe, the Game 5 winner, struck out against
Tavarez as a pinch-hitter in the 12th. ... The Cardinals played a
postseason extra-inning game at home for the first time since the
1946 World Series opener. ... Tony Womack singled twice, but left
after three innings because of lower back spasms. Hector Luna took
over at 2B. La Russa said it was uncertain if Womack would play
Thursday night. ... Isringhausen pitched three innings for the
first time since Sept. 9, 2001, with Oakland. ... The teams have
combined for 22 home runs, one shy of the record for a postseason
series set by the Cubs and Marlins in last year's NLCS.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.