Clemens threw seven shutout innings for his 335th win and got two hits as the Houston Astros sent the sloppy Reds to their worst first-half record in 71 years with a 9-0 victory Sunday.
"It was a good game for us," said Clemens, who wanted to pitch the eighth. "We played two games yesterday. They don't need to protect me. I'm the old goat. Let them protect the young guys."
Clemens (7-3) allowed four hits and one walk with four strikeouts, lowering his major league-leading ERA to 1.41. He has allowed just one run in 46 innings over seven starts on the road. He also drove in a run with a single, hit a ground-rule double and was selected Sunday for his 11th All-Star Game..
"I expect it," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "That's the way he pitches every game. I've seen it for a whole year now. That's the way he pitches, and he's hitting a lot of them, too. He takes pride in everything he does -- hitting, hunting, golf, blackjack, whatever you have, he wants to beat you. Perhaps you're seeing the greatest right-hander who ever pitched."
Brad Ausmus delivered run-scoring singles in each of his first two at-bats and Willy Taveras tied his career high with four hits, including three infield singles, as the Astros built a 4-0 lead with four unearned runs on the way to their third win in the four-game series and fifth win of a seven-game road trip.
The Reds have lost seven of eight. They are 31-50, their worst record after 81 games since the 1934 Reds were 27-54 en route to finishing 52-99.
"We've been looking for a clean game," interim manager Jerry Narron said. "We want a clean game, physically and mentally. You can't make mistakes against a guy like Roger Clemens."
Clemens is 4-0 in six starts since losing 9-0 to the Reds on May 30 in Houston. He allowed just two runs in eight innings in that game.
Reds starter Brandon Claussen (4-6) lowered his ERA from 3.97 to 3.64 but fell to 1-3 in his last four starts. Claussen allowed five hits and four runs, none earned, with one walk and four strikeouts in six innings.
"A day like today, going against a guy like Clemens, you've got to stay aggressive and be on top of your game," Claussen said. "Mistakes have to be limited at the big-league level, more so when you're going against a guy like Clemens. I tip my hat to him. He
was unbelievable before this year. He's amazing. He's a good pitcher, and he knows it. He didn't make a mistake today. What else is new? Shocker."
Houston scored two unearned runs in the second. Ensberg was on first base with one out when third baseman Joe Randa dropped Adam Everett's potential double-play grounder for an error. Eric Bruntlett struck out, but Ensberg scored from second and Everett moved to third on Ausmus' single. Everett scored on Claussen's wild pitch with Clemens at the plate.
The Astros added two more unearned runs in the fourth. Reds shortstop Felipe Lopez was charged with an error on Bruntlett's two-out grounder. Bruntlett stole second and scored on Ausmus' single. Ausmus moved to second on Ken Griffey Jr.'s throw home and scored on Clemens' single to left.
"Since I've come over here [from the American League], I've worked on my hitting a lot more," Clemens said. "I'm convinced that, if you can handle the bat, you can really help yourself every three or four starts."
The Astros broke it open with four seventh-inning runs on Berkman's two-run double, Jason Lane's sacrifice fly and Everett's RBI double.
Ensberg connected in the ninth.
The Astros optioned right-hander Ezequiel Astacio, who started and lost the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, to Triple-A Round Rock and recalled left-hander Mike Gallo. ... Houston's Chris Burke extended his career-high hitting streak to eight games with a seventh-inning single. ... Ensberg pushed his career-best hitting streak to 10 games. ... Lopez was charged with a second error before the official scorer changed the decision to a bad-hop single. ... Clemens' pickoff of Adam Dunn in the first inning was the 42nd of his career, snapping a tie with Colorado's Jamey Wright
for the lead among active right-handers.