Backe gets late call

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros enter today's contest
against the Colorado Rockies knowing that a victory will earn
them an improbable playoff berth.

Only they won't have Roger Clemens starting as expected.

Astros manager Phil Garner said that a stomach virus hit Clemens late Saturday night. The pitcher, who was supposed to start today's game against the Rockies, did not sleep well last night.

Garner said that Clemens' blood pressure was slightly elevated and the pitcher has also been taking intravenous fluids. Because of all those factors, Garner made the decision not to start Clemens and go with Brandon Backe (4-3).

"Roger was willing to go out there and do it," Garner said. "He was sick all night and didn't get any sleep. My feeling is that he would hit the wall early. I think it's just best not to put him out there."

The Astros were 56-60 on Aug. 14, seven games behind the
Chicago Cubs in the National League wild card race. Since then,
Houston is a major league best 34-10, including a
franchise-record 16-game home winning streak.

Houston leads the San Francisco Giants by one game in the wild
card after its 9-3 win Saturday and the Giants' 7-3 loss to the
Los Angeles Dodgers.

If necessary, general manager Gerry Hunsicker said he thought
Clemens would be available to start in Monday's game.

"We're confident it's one of those 12-hour viruses," Hunsicker
said. "Two of his sons had it and they're just getting over it.
Certainly, he's got to be stronger tomorrow than he is today."

With the win Saturday, Roy Oswalt became the NL's only 20-game
winner and the Astros' first since Mike Hampton and Jose Lima
did it in 1999. Jeff Kent homered twice, passing Ryne Sandberg
for the all-time lead for home runs among second baseman.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.