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Cruz haunts former team in 10-5 victory

4/3/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- Nelson Cruz had something to prove to the Houston Astros.

Cruz pitched five innings to beat his former team and the
Colorado Rockies avoided a three-game sweep by defeating Houston
10-5 Thursday.

They don't think I can pitch but I think I can pitch,'' said
Cruz, who was traded from Houston to Colorado in the offseason.
"My slider helped me I think. I'm a fastball-changeup pitcher but
in the winter I worked on my slider. They hadn't seen that
before.''

Bobby Estalella hit a solo homer in the second inning against
Jeriome Robertson (0-1) and a two-run shot in a seven-run fifth to
lead Colorado. It was his sixth career multihomer game.

Todd Helton drove in three runs, Ronnie Belliard had two RBI
and Jay Payton had three hits for the Rockies, who avoided being
swept in a season-opening series for the first time since their
expansion season in 1993.

Cruz (1-0), making his first start for the Rockies, allowed two
runs and two hits. After allowing Craig Biggio's homer in the third
inning, Cruz retired the final eight batters he faced. He walked
one and struck out one.

"He said he wasn't too excited, but at the same time, I was
trying to calm him down,'' Estalella said. "He mixed things up.
Basically we were trying to keep them off balance.''

Trailing 2-1, the Rockies broke the game open in the fifth. Jose Hernandez led off the inning with a single and Estalella followed
with a homer to make it 3-2. Chris Stynes doubled and then scored
on Belliard's RBI single.

After an infield hit by Payton, Helton hit a two-run double.
Larry Walker added a two-run triple to knock out Robertson.

"I might have been a little excited in the first inning, it was
kind of emotional,'' Cruz said. "But it was nice to see my
ex-teammates. I knew I had to face them and after the second inning
I thought it was going to be close. I just pitched my game.''

Cruz threw 63 pitches and went one inning longer than he did in
any spring outing. He was mostly a reliever the last two seasons
for Houston, making only five starts.

"He was trying to show them that he can pitch,'' Belliard said.
"I talked to him before the game and I told him to be calm and
just pitch his game and keep the ball down.''

Robertson, making his second career start, allowed eight runs
and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Robertson became the team's No. 3
starter when the Astros released Shane Reynolds at the end of
spring training.

"I felt pretty comfortable,'' Robertson said. "I was hitting
my spots early. But then things started happening pretty quickly in
the fifth. They got hold of a sinker away and then I made a couple
of mistakes.''

The Rockies added two more runs in the sixth on an RBI single by
Belliard and a sacrifice fly by Helton.

Houston scored twice off Brian Fuentes in the seventh on a
sacrifice fly by Gregg Zaun and a throwing error by Stynes. Geoff Blum added an RBI single in the ninth.

After allowing Estalella's first homer in the second, Robertson
retired the next seven batters.

"We were just a bloop and a blast away from getting right back
in it,'' Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "That's just the
makeup of these guys. (Jeff) Kent brings that from San Francisco
and the ones we already had are that way too.''

The Astros went up 2-1 on an RBI double by Zaun and Biggio's
homer.

Game notes
Estalella's most recent multihomer game was last May 15,
against Florida. ... Biggio needs one hit to reach 2,300 for his
career. He would be the first Astros player to reach that mark and
the 115th player in major league history. ... Houston 1B Jeff Bagwell needs two home runs to tie Harold Baines for 42nd on the
all-time list with 384. ... The Rockies are 3-9 at Minute Maid
Park, their worst road record at any NL park. They have a 32-13
record against Houston in Colorado.