CINCINNATI – Roger Clemens threw seven shutout innings and got two hits as the Houston Astros sent the sloppy Cincinnati Reds to their worst first-half record in 71 years with a 9-0 victory Sunday.

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 and hit a ground-rule double.

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.

Morgan Ensberg hit his 22nd homer and Lance Berkman had a two-run double for Houston, just 14-29 on the road.

The Reds have lost seven of eight. They are 31-50, their worst record after 81 games since the 1934 Reds were 27-54 on their way to finishing 52-99.

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.

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.

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.

Notes: The Astros optioned RHP Ezequiel Astacio, who started and lost the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, to Triple-A Round Rock and recalled LHP 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.

AP-ES-07-03-05 1618EDT


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