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Astros pick Munro to start in Game 6

Roger Clemens can relax. For now, Pete Munro is the Houston Astros' pick to pitch them into the World Series.

Ahead 3-2 in the NL championship series, manager Phil Garner studied it: the Rocket on three days' rest vs. a journeyman hit hard last week. On the team flight to St. Louis, Munro was told he would start Game 6 today against the Cardinals.

"I guess I was kind of overwhelmed," Munro said before Tuesday's workout at Busch Stadium. "I'm sure that they'd rather face me than Roger. I mean, I'd rather face me than Roger."

Instead, Clemens will be held back for a possible Game 7. Or maybe a start in the World Series opener.

"There are going to be a lot of people saying do the opposite, start Roger," Garner said. "But what I feel in my gut is what I have to do."

Garner could have lined up Clemens and Roy Oswalt to face the Cardinals, bringing both back early in hopes of putting Houston into its first World Series.

But the stats aren't good: Since five-man rotations became popular, pitchers on three days' rest lose about three times more than they win in the postseason.

During the first round against Atlanta, Clemens pitched on three days' rest for the first time since April 11, 2002. He hung in for five innings, allowing two runs.

"I think it's false to assume that just because you're going to bring Roger back that you're sure to win," Garner said. "Because I'm starting Pete doesn't mean we're giving this game away."

After losing three straight games, the Cardinals assumed they'd be facing Clemens.

"I saw some controversy in the paper, but I kind of think he'll pitch," third baseman Scott Rolen said earlier Tuesday. "I think we all think he'll pitch and then we'll have Oswalt in Game 7, hopefully."

Added Game 6 starter Matt Morris: "Obviously, our position players might rather face Pete Munro rather than a Roger Clemens. We know his capabilities. Although, taking nothing away from Pete."

A day before, the 42-year-old Clemens said he was set. He won Game 3, going seven innings.

"I'll be ready to go whenever he wants to hand me the ball," he said.

Coming off one of the best and most unlikely pitching duels in playoff history, it was hard to know what to expect. The teams totaled just four hits — a postseason record — on Monday night, with Brandon Backe and the Astros beating Woody Williams and the Cardinals 3-0.

Jeff Kent's three-run homer off Jason Isringhausen in the ninth inning won that matchup at Minute Maid Park. The clubs have combined for 20 home runs so far, three off the NLCS record set last year by Florida and the Cubs.

"We're as likely to have a 10-8 game as a 2-1 game," Garner said.

It was right in the middle — 6-4, St. Louis — when Morris and Munro matched up in Game 2. Each gave up three runs and six hits, with Munro lasting 4 2-3 innings and Morris going five.

Munro started the season at Triple-A for Minnesota, was signed by Houston in June and demoted to the minors. He went 4-7 with a 5.15 ERA for the Astros, and has a 13-19 career mark in the majors.

"I've been underestimated my whole life, when it comes to baseball," Munro said. "That they went with me is amazing to me.

"I think in any other circumstance, if Roger had four days off, he'd definitely be the guy to take the bump," he said. "This isn't a must-win. I think they wanted to give Roger an extra day. If we'd lost last night, I guess they'd go with Roger."

Garner said he weighed all sorts of factors for a while.

"I thought about it for quite a bit. The process was a day or two. And then you sit around and you think a little bit more," he said. "I think you can overthink it, you can see all kinds of scenarios.

"Asking Roger to come back on short days two of three starts, I'm not sure if that's the right move. All things considered, I think it's best to let him pitch on his fifth day."

The Cardinals aren't looking forward to Game 7, not yet. After leading the majors with 105 victories, the NL Central champions will go a day at a time against the wild-card Astros.

"Well, we actually practiced this game over six months," La Russa said. "A lot times when we are in a series, we would tell ourselves we're in the seventh game of the World Series.

"A lot of times if you don't win a bunch of series, you don't get to October. So we put the must-win situation on ourselves a bunch of times."

OLERUD OUT: Yankees first baseman John Olerud is out for the rest of the series because of a bruised left instep. Olerud was injured in Game 3 on Saturday when the knob of his bat apparently hit him on the foot as he stumbled out of the batter's box. X-rays were negative, but he was scheduled to have more tests Tuesday. Tony Clark made his third consecutive start at first base for New York in Game 6 against Boston.

TV HIT: Boston's 5-4, 14-inning win in Game 5 Monday night was the highest-rated weekday day game in the LCS in 18 years. The 5-hour, 49-minute game had an 11.3 rating and 19 share on Fox, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday, up 59 percent for the 7.1/16 for Game 5 of last year's AL series between the Yankees and Red Sox. The last weekday LCS day game with a rating that high was the New York Mets' 16-inning Game 6 clincher over the Houston Astros in the 1986 NLCS (17.0/39).

The nationally televised portion of Houston's 3-0 win over St. Louis in Game 5 of the NL series got a 9.8/17. So far, the five games in each series have averaged an 8.7/15, down 5 percent from last year's average of 9.2/17, but 34 percent higher that 2002's 6.4/11.

The rating is the percentage of television households tuned to a broadcast and each point represents 1,096,000 homes. The share is the percent watching a telecast among those households with televisions in use at the time.

CARPENTER PROGRESS: Throughout the postseason, the Cardinals have played down any progress made by 15-game winner Chris Carpenter, sidelined since Sept. 18 with nerve damage to his right biceps. But if they make it to the World Series, there's a chance he could be available to pitch. Carpenter threw 26 pitches off the bullpen mound on Tuesday, a day after his latest favorable exam and a week after he was cleared to resume playing catch. If the Cardinals avert elimination in Game 6 on Wednesday, he's scheduled to throw again on Thursday.

RADIO DEAL: XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. is raising the ante in its programming battle with rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., signing an 11-year programming deal with Major League Baseball, a person familiar with the matter said late Tuesday.

The deal would put baseball games for every major league team on XM's service beginning next year, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The story was first reported in The Sports Business Daily, a newspaper published by Street & Smith's Sports Group.

Officials from both Major League Baseball and XM declined to comment, but MLB notified reporters late Tuesday that baseball commissioner Bud Selig would have a news conference this morning with Hugh Panero, the CEO of XM Satellite Radio.