<
>

Berkman, Wilson homers help Astros edge Marlins

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros started fast, then took their
usual nerve-wracking route to a 6-5 win over the Florida Marlins on
Wednesday night.

Lance Berkman and offseason addition Preston Wilson each hit
two-run homers and Craig Biggio scored two runs as the defending NL
champions took two of three in their opening series.

Brad Lidge got Josh Willingham to ground out with runners on
first and second in the ninth to get his second save.

The Astros didn't look like they were going to need their
dependable closer after building a 6-1 after two innings. But they
mustered only two hits the rest of the game and had to sweat out
their 27th one-run regular-season victory since the start of last
year.

"It's the only way we know how to do it," Biggio said. "We
can win 10-9 or 2-1. It's just something that over the last three
or four years, we have no idea on how to blow another team out. I
think a lot of guys in here are used to the tough games."

Willingham and Miguel Cabrera had two RBI apiece for the
Marlins, who have 11 rookies on their roster and the lowest payroll
in the major leagues.

First-year manager Joe Girardi held back tears as he talked
about his team's effort outside the clubhouse.

"I kind of got emotional watching them play," Girardi said.
"They were trying so hard. Our guys grew up a little bit
tonight."

Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (1-0), who replaced scheduled
starter Brandon Backe, allowed four runs and seven hits in his
first outing since relieving a hobbled Roger Clemens in Game 1 of
the World Series. Backe sat out with a sore back on his 28th
birthday but said he'll start Friday against Washington.

The Astros had only 10 hits in their first two games and won
Monday's opener 1-0 when Biggio scored on a wild pitch.

They looked like they were ready to snap out of their offensive
doldrums when they jumped on former Houston pitcher Brian Moehler.

After Willingham's two-out RBI single in the first, the Astros
took the lead after Moehler's first three pitches.

Biggio led off with his 606th career double, moving ahead of
Paul Molitor and Paul Waner to 10th on the career list. He went to
third on Willy Taveras' sacrifice bunt and trotted home when
Berkman homered to left.

"My location was horrible," Moehler said. "My mechanics are
out of whack right now and it's very frustrating."

After Morgan Ensberg walked, Wilson homered to right, flashing
the power the Astros wanted when they signed him as a free agent.
Wilson hit 25 homers last season with Colorado and Washington.

"It was nice to score a few runs early," Wilson said, "and I
think it put our pitchers in a situation where they didn't have to
pitch error-free. Hopefully, we'll do some more of that for them
this year."

Biggio had an RBI single in the second, stole his 408th career
base, then scored on Berkman's single to reach 1,700 career runs.
His two hits left him two shy of 2,800.

Moehler (0-1) pitched for Houston in 2003, then had elbow
surgery that ended his season after just three starts. He threw
only 31 pitches against his old team on Wednesday, allowing six
runs and six hits in two innings.

Girardi turned to right-hander Ricky Nolasco, the last of five
Marlins who made his major league debut in Houston. The 23-year-old
Nolasco held the Astros to one hit with two strikeouts in three
innings.

Dan Uggla had an RBI double and Cabrera added a run-scoring
single in the fifth. The Marlins added another run in the seventh
on Cabrera's RBI double off Astros reliever Chad Qualls.

"Our guys buckled down, came back and we had a chance to win,"
Girardi said. "Eventually, our guys are going to win those
games."

But not this time.

Lidge trotted in for the ninth to loud roars and his heavy-metal
theme song "Here Comes the Pain" thundering through Minute Maid
Park.

Eric Reed flew out and Lidge fanned Hanley Ramirez before
walking Jeremy Hermida. Cabrera hit a single past Adam Everett
before Willingham shattered his bat on the game-ending grounder.
Game notes
Garner is sticking with Biggio in the leadoff spot,
followed by Taveras. Taveras led off 117 games in 2005 before
Garner changed the order late in the year. "We seemed to start
clicking pretty well when we made that move," Garner said. ...
Ensberg walked three times, giving him five in 11 at-bats this
season.