Berkman's three RBI lead Astros past Dodgers

HOUSTON (AP) -- Wandy Rodriguez has a good feeling every time he
starts for the Houston Astros, expecting that his teammates will
score plenty of runs for him.

They backed him again Wednesday, with Lance Berkman hitting a
two-run homer and Chris Burke adding two RBI in the Astros' 8-5
win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Rodriguez (4-0) tied his career high with six strikeouts,
allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. The Astros have
averaged 6.4 runs in his five starts.

"I feel confident going out to the mound, knowing what those
guys will do for me," Rodriguez said. "They're scoring runs for
me and that's making my job a lot easier."

Berkman also had an RBI single and Burke had a career-high three
hits as the defending NL champions capped a 7-2 homestand with
their ninth win in 11 games.

"Whatever happened last year to propel us to the run that we
made, it's really carried over to this year," Burke said. "Guys
expect to win ballgames and that's showing up in the plays we're

The Astros have won six of seven series this year and matched
their best start since 1986. They face the Reds on Friday in the
opener of a three-game series in Cincinnati that is shaping up as
an early duel for first place in the NL Central.

"Looking at our schedule, it was not out of the realm of
possibility," Berkman said of Houston's 15-6 record. "Now we need
to move on from here. Cincinnati's playing well and so are we, so
we'll see what happens."

Los Angeles loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth off
Ezequiel Astacio. Dan Wheeler relieved and allowed Jose Cruz Jr.'s
RBI grounder and Ricky Ledee's two-run single before retiring Bill
Mueller on a game-ending groundout.

Odalis Perez (3-1) gave up seven runs -- six earned -- and 11 hits
in 4 1-3 innings. He dropped to 0-4 with a 12.91 ERA in six starts
against Houston and failed for the third straight season to win his
next decision after a 3-0 start.

"I have no idea why," Perez said about his struggles against
the Astros. "I don't think I've ever pitched against this team at
home, but it's nothing with the field. When I pitch against these
guys, they just really hit it well."

A night after Houston beat Los Angeles in a 14-inning game that
lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes, Little rested regular starters Rafael
Furcal and Kenny Lofton.

Little said his whole team was "taxed," but avoided using
fatigue as an excuse.

"The lineup on the field had nothing to do with the outcome of
the game," he said. "Their starting pitcher had a better game
than our starting pitcher."

Burke, a reserve making his first career start at shortstop,
doubled with two outs in the second and scored on Brad Ausmus'
single -- his 14th hit in his last 30 at-bats. Burke was starting in
place of Adam Everett, hit on the left hand by a Brad Penny pitch a
night earlier.

Burke has worked on moving closer to the plate when he bats and
the subtle change has worked.

"I've really felt comfortable in all my at-bats and
fortunately, that's shown up in results," said Burke, off to an
11-for-25 start.

Craig Biggio led off the third by reaching for an infield single
on a sharp grounder that third baseman Mueller had to backhand
behind the bag. Cruz misplayed Willy Taveras' drive into the
left-field corner and Biggio, still speedy at age 40, slid home
just ahead of the throw.

Berkman then sent a 3-2 pitch over the railroad tracks in left
field for his eighth homer, his second batting right-handed.

He's only hit 19 of 188 career homers right-handed.

"I was just trying to get a base hit," Berkman said. "I don't
hit very many of those right-handed, so it was pretty nice to get
that one."

Taveras and Berkman hit RBI singles in the fourth for a 6-0
lead, drawing Little out of the dugout to chat with Perez.

"He got some pitches where he didn't want them, but I never saw
him unravel," Little said. "The guy kept battling. He gave us all
the effort we could expect."

Jason Repko hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Burke atoned
for a throwing error in the top of the inning with an RBI single in
the bottom half. Burke added an RBI double in the eighth off
Franquelis Osoria.

Game notes
The Astros have yet to lose a series this year. They split
two games in San Francisco on April 13, a doubleheader forced by
two straight rainouts. The teams will make up the third game on May
8. ... The Astros didn't get win No. 15 last season until May 17 --
then lost seven in a row to drop to 15-30. ... Garciaparra went
1-for-12 in the series. His only hit was the ninth-inning grand
slam off Brad Lidge in Monday's opener.