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Armas, on limited pitch count, holds Astros hitless

MONTREAL (AP) -- After hitting his first grand slam in the
National League, Nick Johnson got a chance at his first curtain
call.

"I don't remember the last time I got one," Johnson said. "It
was fun."

Johnson hit his second career grand slam to cap a five-run
seventh, Tony Armas Jr. pitched five hitless innings before leaving
because of a high pitch count and the Montreal Expos beat the
Houston Astros 8-3 on Saturday night to stretch their season-best
winning streak to seven.

Brad Wilkerson also hit a disputed homer leading off the first
for Montreal, which still has the second-worst record in the NL at
49-66 but has won 10 of its last 13 games.

"We've seen both sides of the field, playing bad and playing
good, so it feels a lot better playing good," said Terrmel Sledge,
who hit a tying RBI single in the sixth and scored on Johnson's
grand slam one inning later. "

Houston (56-60) dropped seven games behind Chicago in the NL
wild-card race. The Astros, who had just four hits, have lost six
of seven and eight of 10.

"The offense obviously is struggling, there's just no
question," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We can't seem to get
anything rolling, that's for sure. We'll keep picking away."

Armas, pitching for the first time in 18 days and limited to 77
pitches, became the second straight Expos starter to have a hitless
outing. He struck out five and walked two.

"I was on a pitch count and you've got to respect that," Armas
said.

Jon Rauch held the Astros hitless through 4 2-3 innings Friday
before leaving because of a strained left oblique muscle.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the
same team's starters had consecutive hitless outings since the New
York Yankees' Fritz Peterson went 1 2-3 innings against the Kansas
City Athletics in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 29,
1967, and Al Downing lasted one hitless inning the following day.

T.J. Tucker (3-1) inherited -- and lost -- a no-hit bid for the
second straight night, retiring two hitters, then allowed Carlos
Beltran's double past third base in the sixth.

"Two nights in a row, I mess it up both nights," Tucker said.
"But it's two wins. A win's a win."

Beltran's hit became a ground-rule double when a security guard
seated in front of the stands beside the bullpen kicked out his
left foot and struck the ball.

"I didn't know what he was doing," said Sledge, the left
fielder on the play. "He stopped me from running a little bit
more."

Jeff Bagwell's two-run homer put the Astros ahead, but Montreal
took a 3-2 lead in the bottom half on Sledge's run-scoring single
and Einar Diaz's RBI double.

Jose Vidro hit a run-scoring single off Chad Qualls with one out
in the seventh, and Johnson hit Montreal's fifth slam of the
season.

Wilkerson was awarded a home run in the first off Carlos
Hernandez (0-1), who made his first major league start since 2002.

Wilkerson's drive to right-center landed on top of the outfield
wall and bounced back onto the playing field. Second-base umpire
Dan Iassogna immediately signaled a home run, though replays
clearly showed the ball never went out of play.

Garner, who missed Friday's 6-5, 12-inning loss because of a
one-game suspension, argued at length with Iassogna, who nearly
botched a call the night before when he initially ruled a drive by
Lance Berkman past the left-field foul pole a homer before
correctly reversing his decision.

"It's not controversial -- it's not a home run," Garner said.
"The only guy in the world that saw it as a home run was the
umpire and he refused to ask anybody else, and I don't understand
that. Maybe he was mad because he got reversed last night when he
missed it but he's 0-for-2 on home runs right here."

Hernandez, who missed last season while recovering from shoulder
surgery, allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.

"It felt good from the first to the last inning," Hernandez
said. "I really hate it because Baggy hit the two-run homer and I
was just trying to keep the team in the game, but after that
inning, I was really disappointed."

Game notes
Hernandez made 22 starts for Triple-A New Orleans this
season, going 9-4 with a 3.61 ERA. ... Wilkerson's homer was his
fourth leading off a game this season, his first since July 1 at
Philadelphia. ... Johnson's other grand slam came Aug. 8 last year
against Seattle for the Yankees.