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Braves, Astros scoreless until Langerhans' first career HR

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tim Hudson pitched longer and better than Roger Clemens -- and it still wasn't enough. An Atlanta rookie, by way of
Texas, came through in the clutch to decide this pitcher's duel.

Hudson outpitched the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, and Ryan Langerhans had a pinch-hit homer in the 12th inning Monday night to
lead the Braves to a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros.

"I figured there wouldn't be much offense," Hudson said of his
showdown with Clemens. "I was getting more excited as the game
went on. It was a fun game to watch, if you're a baseball fan."

After Julio Franco struck out to lead off the 12th, Langerhans
homered deep to right off Astros reliever Dan Wheeler (0-2) for the
first run of the two-game series between last year's NL division
series adversaries. Houston advanced to the NL Championship Series
in five games.

Danny Kolb, the fourth Braves pitcher, earned his fourth save in
five opportunities a night after giving up both runs in a 2-1,
10-inning loss to Philadelphia. Chris Reitsma escaped a no-out,
bases-loaded jam in the 10th and Jorge Sosa (1-0) pitched a perfect
11th for the win.

The Astros have lost six of seven since starting 4-1. Houston
has lost five games by one run this season, and seven of the
Astros' first 12 games have been decided by a run.

"Our pitching is good," Astros manager Phil Garner said.
"They can pitch with pressure but you can't ask them to come in
every night and pitch 12 shutout innings."

Not surprisingly, Clemens and Hudson combined for a stirring
pitchers' duel in a game between the 24th (Atlanta) and 26th-ranked
(Houston) scoring offenses in the majors.

But it was Langerhans, a 25-year-old who grew up in Round Rock,
Texas -- the site of Houston's Triple A club -- who decided the game
with his first career homer.

Langerhans swung at Wheeler's first pitch, sending the ball
396-feet, just over the right-field fence. The homer quickly
quieted the crowd except for a smattering of Braves fans that
included Langerhans' parents, grandparents, fiancee and friends.

"It was really special," Langerhans said. "I couldn't ask for
it to happen in a better situation."

Hudson, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland,
continued his strong start with the Braves, taking a four-hitter
into the 10th inning for his longest start since a complete-game
shutout against Baltimore on Aug. 17. He had nine strikeouts and
only one walk.

"Hudson was dynamite, and so was Clemens," Braves manager
Bobby Cox said. "You couldn't tell the difference between them."

Indeed -- Hudson also got little offensive support. The Braves
have scored just two runs in his 22 innings over three starts.

Atlanta endured a scary moment in the bottom of the fifth,
though, when Morgan Ensberg's comebacker ricocheted off Hudson's
right foot to Franco for the easy out. Hudson limped around for a
minute or two before getting back on the mound to scattered
applause.

Houston's Jason Lane singled in the next at-bat, breaking
Hudson's streak of 12 straight outs. Hudson quickly recovered,
striking out Luke Scott and Brad Ausmus to end the inning.

It was Clemens' turn to struggle in the seventh, allowing a
lead-off single to Marcus Giles and a line-drive double down the
left-field line to Chipper Jones.

After Andruw Jones grounded out to first, Clemens intentionally
walked Johnny Estrada to load the bases. The Rocket then quickly
worked himself out of the jam by striking out Franco on a 94-mph
fastball and forcing Brian Jordan to ground into a forceout at
second.

Walking back to the dugout, Clemens let out a yell and pumped
his fist as the crowd of 31,672 burst into cheers. He was removed
after Raul Mondesi singled to leadoff the eighth.

The Astros wasted another stellar performance from their
42-year-old ace: they've scored just one run in his 21 innings on
the mound this season.

"It's tough when you battle so hard," said a subdued Clemens,
who's ERA dropped to 0.43. "You expect something good to happen
... but it didn't work out."

The Rocket finished with five hits and eight strikeouts,
increasing his career total to 4,345. He remained tied with Steve
Carlton for ninth on the wins list with 329.

Game notes
Clemens was denied another victory against the Braves, one
of only two teams, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers, that he's
never beat in the regular season. He's 0-2 in five career starts
against Atlanta. ... Fans gave three-time All-Star Jimmy Wynn, who
played in Houston for 11 of his 15 major league seasons, a standing
ovation before the third inning. The Astros announced earlier
Monday that they will retire Wynn's No. 24 jersey number during a
ceremony before the July 8 game against the Dodgers. ... Cox earned
his 2,009 victory, moving him past Hall of Famer Leo Durocher for
sole possession of eighth place.