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Diamondbacks rally to deny Clemens win after seven sharp

HOUSTON (AP) -- When the Houston Astros finally scored some runs
for Roger Clemens, their bullpen gave them all away.

Conor Jackson hit a go-ahead homer off Brad Lidge in the ninth
inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks rallied after Clemens left the
game, beating the Astros 7-6 Sunday.

Clemens had a season-high nine strikeouts in seven sharp innings
and left with a 5-1 lead. But Jeff DaVanon hit an RBI single and
Eric Byrnes added a three-run homer off Chad Qualls in the eighth
to tie it.

"This was tough," manager Phil Garner said. "We give them six
runs the last two innings and that's tough, particularly after
Roger pitched so well and things looked like they were on our side.

"It was another masterful game by Roger and we finally put some
runs on the board. I really thought he had that one."

Clemens had perhaps his best game of the season, allowing two
hits and one unearned run just five days before his 44th birthday.

The Astros had not scored a run while he was in the game in
Clemens' four losses and were averaging a team-low 2.45 runs of
support in his previous seven starts. But Clemens would not address
any personal frustration afterward.

"There's not a whole lot to take from this game," said
Clemens, who has a 2-4 record and lowered his ERA to 2.09, which
would be the NL's best if he had enough innings to qualify. "The
only positive I can take is the game calls that [catcher] Brad [Ausmus] and I had. It was probably in the top three or four games
since I've been here for seeing hitters the same way and I was
executing my pitches when he called them."

Ausmus shrugged off his role in Clemens' impressive performance.

"Things went pretty smoothly but the guy knows what he's
doing," Ausmus said. "He was outstanding. His splitter was as
good as it's been all year.

"This is just an awful loss. It doesn't get any worse."

The Diamondbacks were duly impressed with Clemens.

"He was great," Shawn Green said. "He had everything working.
He was throwing strikes and he wasn't leaving any pitches over the
heart of the plate. He's been pretty good for about 20 years but he
definitely threw a good game. As he gets older, he just keeps
adapting to what kind of pitches he has working."

Jackson hit a two-run homer off Lidge and Jorge Julio allowed
Adam Everett's RBI double in the bottom half before finishing up
for his 13th save.

Lidge has now given up seven home runs, two more than he allowed
all of last season and just one short of his career high in 2004.

Lidge, whose ERA ballooned to 5.77, had no excuses.

"All losses are tough," he said. "But this is obviously
frustrating after Roger threw such a great game.

"If you pitch at the end of the game, that's just part of it
when you're struggling. You don't want to be struggling for our
team now but I am doing that right now."

Ausmus doesn't know what Lidge's problem is.

"I don't know whether it's mental or physical," Ausmus said.
"But it's got to get corrected. We need him to return to pitching
the way he did last year."

Arizona manager Bob Melvin was amazed by his team's comeback.

"After Rocket did what he did to us and to come back to a
position to where we're tied almost felt like a victory at the
time," Melvin said. "Rocket really had us in his hand. He had
unbelievable command of his fastball and a great split."

The Diamondbacks have won 10 of 15 games since the All-Star
break and taken five of their last six series. Tony Pena (3-0)
pitched one scoreless inning to get the win.

Trever Miller (0-3) got the loss, allowing one run in 1 1/3
innings.

Miguel Batista lasted six innings, allowing four runs and eight
hits. He is 3-0 with four no-decisions since his last loss on June
20.

Chad Tracy doubled in Luis Gonzalez in the first inning to give
Arizona a 1-0 lead. But Clemens settled down to retire 19 of the
next 20 batters, including 10 straight from the fourth through the
seventh innings.

Mike Lamb staked Clemens to a 2-1 lead with RBI singles in the
first and third innings.

In the fourth, Clemens came up with Everett on third. Miguel Batista balked Everett in as Clemens and plate umpire Eric Cooper
pointed to the mound simultaneously to signal the balk.

The Astros widened their lead in the seventh when Everett hit a
bases-loaded grounder to third baseman Chad Tracy, who drew catcher
Johnny Estrada off the plate with his wide throw home.

Brad Ausmus' suicide squeeze then drove in Luke Scott for a 5-1
lead.

Game notes
In the third inning, Houston's Craig Biggio was hit by a
pitch for the seventh time this season. It stretched his modern
Major League record for being hit by a pitch to 280. ... After
hitting three batters all season, Batista plunked three more
Sunday.