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McKeon's shuffled lineup yields results

5/20/2004

MIAMI (AP) -- Jack McKeon got exactly what he hoped for from his
retooled lineup. It helped that Josh Beckett was on the mound.

Mike Lowell homered twice, and Beckett rebounded from his worst
start of the season, leading the Florida Marlins to a 6-2 victory
over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.

"That was our team out there," McKeon said. "That was our
kind of game."

Lowell's two solo home runs gave him 13 this season, tying him
with Colorado's Jeromy Burnitz and Arizona's Steve Finley for the
major league lead.

Beckett (4-3) allowed five hits and two runs in 7 2/3 innings.
He struck out seven, walked three and got plenty of run support
from his team's shuffled lineup.

Beckett left after the Astros loaded the bases with two outs in
the eighth. Armando Benitez came in to face Lance Berkman, whose
homer in the seventh was his third in as many nights, but struck
out looking against the Florida closer.

"We had a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat,"
Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "We had Berkman up, and he's
been hot. You can't ask for much more than that."

Benitez also pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 17
chances.

"Being a closer, you don't come in and play around," Benitez
said. "One mistake can cost you the game. The team needs me, and I
was ready."

Beckett looked much more like the World Series MVP than he has
at times this season. He gave up nine hits and six runs in six
innings and struggled with his command in a loss at St. Louis last
week. He also gave up six runs earlier this season.

The Marlins won for just the second time in six games. They did
it after McKeon made several changes to his lineup -- hoping to
spark an offense that entered the game ranked 26th in the majors in
runs scored.

McKeon swapped Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo at the top of the
batting order and inserted three backups into the starting lineup.

Damion Easley subbed for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, Lenny Harris
started in place of left fielder Jeff Conine and Mike Redmond gave
catcher Ramon Castro a day off.

The moves paid off.

Castillo led off the first with a single and moved to third on a
hit-and-run with Pierre. Castillo scored on a wild pitch.

"Our catalysts are those two guys," Harris said. "When they
get on, we're on. When they struggle, it seems like we all
struggle."

Lowell followed with a homer to left that extended his hitting
streak to 11 games. He added another one in the seventh off
reliever Dan Miceli.

"The way he's swinging the bat, I'm glad we're leaving here,"
Williams said.

Castillo added an RBI single in the second that made it 3-0. His
one-hopper deflected off pitcher Roy Oswalt's glove, scoring Hee
Seop Choi.

Harris delivered a two-out, two-run single in the fifth to make
it 5-1.

"That was a big at-bat right there," Oswalt said. "Two more
inches outside and he probably doesn't do as much with it and we're
out of the inning."

Oswalt (2-3) gave up 11 hits and five runs in six innings,
losing for the first time in four starts against the Marlins.

After racking up 30 hits and 19 runs in the first two games of
the series, the Astros were much quieter against Beckett.

Berkman hit a solo shot to center to start the seventh, and Adam
Everett doubled with one out in the fourth and later scored on Jeff
Kent's single to right.

"We were focused on winning two of three here," Astros
outfielder Craig Biggio said. "They took two of three at our
place, and we wanted to come down here and do the same thing. It's
hard to sweep a good team on the road, so we'll take this (series)
win and move on."

Game notes
The Marlins are 11-14 since starting the season 11-4. ...
The Astros are 12-5 away from home this season, and have won five
of six road series. ... Pierre was caught stealing in the first
inning on a play that was scored 1-3-6-1-4-8.