<
>

Berkman's three RBI, Ensberg's three-run HR lift Astros

PHOENIX (AP) -- Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg had the booming
blows for the Houston Astros. The biggest hit, though, was a bloop
single off the end of Willy Taveras' bat.

Taveras' two-run, two-out single ignited a seven-run sixth
inning for Houston and the Astros went on to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-5 on Sunday.

"The big blow today was Willy," Houston manager Phil Garner
said. "They had us in a little bit of a pickle there."

Leading 2-1, the Diamondbacks had intentionally walked
left-handed pinch-hitter Mike Lamb to load the bases and get to
Taveras, who had struck out twice against Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez in his previous two at bats.

"Orlando was throwing some great pitches at me," Taveras said.
"My first two RBI [of the season], it was a great opportunity."

Berkman, who had three hits -- two of them doubles -- and three
RBI in the game, singled in two runs, then Ensberg hit a three-run
homer -- all off reliever Jason Grimsley -- in the sixth-inning
uprising.

"The presence of Lance in the lineup healthy is just something
you can't explain," Ensberg said. "He goes in there and crushes
the ball. When I came up to bat, the pressure was really off. It
was really those two guys [Taveras and Berkman] who got the big
hits."

Ensberg homered for the second time in two games as Houston
scored 18 in taking the last two of a three-game set in Arizona.

Luis Gonzalez was 1-for-20 in the homestand -- a span of six
games -- before hitting a home run just over the right-field fence
leading off the fourth to put Arizona up 2-1.

Hernandez was on the brink of escaping in the sixth after, with
runners at second and third and no outs, he struck out Brad Ausmus
and Adam Everett on three pitches each. Then Taveras' single
dropped in front of Gonzalez in left field.

"It wasn't really a bad pitch," Diamondbacks catcher Johnny Estrada said. "It was a pretty decent pitch. The guy got a blooper
and the flood gates opened after that."

Hernandez hit Orlando Palmeiro to load the bases, and El Duque's
day was over. Grimsley came on and the Astros' offense erupted.

Hernandez (1-2) allowed six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
He struck out eight, walked four -- one intentionally -- and hit two
batters.

Russ Springer (1-0) got the victory after pitching to one
batter, retiring Conor Jackson on a flyout with the bases loaded
and two outs in the fifth. Brad Lidge got three outs for his third
save in three opportunities.

Arizona's Jeff DaVanon singled twice, walked twice and drove in
two runs.

In the third, Hernandez struck out the first two hitters, but
Palmeiro reached on a bunt single, then scored from first when
Berkman doubled down the right-field line. Hernandez hit Ensberg on
the left wrist, but Jason Lane bounced into a fielder's choice to
end the inning.

Arizona tied it at 1 in its half of the third. Estrada
led off with a single, then took second on Hernandez's sacrifice
bunt. Craig Counsell struck out, but DaVanon singled to center to
bring home Estrada.

Hernandez got the third hit of his major league career when he
singled leading off the fifth. The Diamondbacks went on to load the
bases before Springer came on to retire Jackson.

Berkman is hitting .356 with 17 RBI and Ensberg .400 with 10
walks for a .529 on-base percentage. Both downplayed their fast
start.

"I don't feel like I'm on fire, but I'm getting my hits,"
Berkman said. "I still have those at bats when I feel like I'm
back in spring training. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong.
If I feel like this all year and hit good that's fine."

Houston's Fernando Nieve made his first major league start. He
went four-plus innings, allowing two runs and four hits. He struck
out four and walked two.

Game notes
Taveras has two errors in the past two games. ... The
Diamondbacks are 2-4 on their first homestand of the season with
San Francisco coming to town for four games beginning Monday night.
... Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch, extending his major league
record in that category to 275. ... Ausmus walked three times.