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


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


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.