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Berkman's upper-deck bomb leads Houston past struggling Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Willy Taveras, Craig Biggio and Lance
Berkman leading the way, the Houston Astros' struggling offense had
quite a day against a Washington Nationals club that keeps losing
players to injury.

It took all of 7 minutes for that trio at the top of Houston's
lineup to produce a 3-0 lead against Washington on Monday night.

It also took about that long for Washington starter Zach Day to
realize something was wrong with his throwing shoulder -- and he was
headed to the disabled list by the end of what turned out to be a
10-3 victory for the Astros over the Nationals.

Taveras and Biggio went a combined 7-for-10 with two walks, six
runs scored and three RBI.

"You can't expect that to happen for the first two guys in the
lineup every night," said Biggio, who hit his 623rd career double
to move within one of Hank Aaron for ninth in baseball history.
"It's huge for an offense whenever you can get one guy going, but
let alone when you get two, you get a lot of opportunities for the
big boys coming up. That's our job."

Taveras scored a career-high four runs and had three hits. He
led off the game with a single, stole second, and took third on
catcher Wiki Gonzalez's throwing error. Biggio walked, and Day's
first offering to Berkman was a wild pitch that allowed Taveras to
score.

That brought Gonzalez and pitching coach Randy St. Claire to the
mound, while reliever Joey Eischen began a slow walk from the
dugout to the bullpen (though he wouldn't enter the game until the
seventh).

Berkman then drove an 89 mph offering for a two-run homer, the
first ball hit into the top section of seats in center field at RFK
Stadium since baseball returned to the park last season.

"These guys are making it easy for me. They score runs early
and I kind of relax a little bit," said Cecil Cooper, who improved
to 4-0 as a fill-in manager. The bench coach ran the Astros on
Monday while manager Phil Garner served a one-game suspension.

The Astros came in averaging 2.38 runs in their previous eight
games, but Washington put on a poor pitching display all night, and
Houston finished with 13 hits and nine walks (two intentional).

Making things worse for the Nationals, Day (2-5) left in the
fourth inning with a sore throwing shoulder. He was charged with
six runs and four hits, plus three walks, a wild pitch, and a hit
batsman.

He was put on the 15-day disabled list with what was diagnosed
as tendinitis in the shoulder, part of a series of roster moves
Washington made after the game. Outfielder Alex Escobar (strained
left hamstring) also went on the 15-day DL after appearing in just
two games since being called up from the minors, while right-handed
relievers Saul Rivera and Santiago Ramirez were brought up from
Triple-A New Orleans to help the beleaguered bullpen. Neither
Rivera nor Ramirez has ever appeared in the majors.

"We need pitching, pitching, pitching," general manager Jim
Bowden said, adding that the team might try to get a starter via a
trade.

Day joined fellow starters John Patterson, Ryan Drese, Brian
Lawrence and Pedro Astacio on the disabled list, along with setup
man Luis Ayala, out for the season after elbow surgery. Starting
catcher Brian Schneider is also on the DL -- though he's expected
back Friday -- as is Cristian Guzman, penciled in as the starting
shortstop. Jose Guillen has missed the past five games with a bad
hamstring, but he's supposed to return Tuesday.

What toll have all of the injuries taken?

"Check the record," Bowden said, "and that'll show you the
toll."

Well, the Nationals fell to 16-29, better only than Florida and
Pittsburgh in the NL.

The game's tone was set in the first inning.

In the top half, Day threw 26 pitches and allowed three runs.
And the bottom half? Wandy Rodriguez (6-2) needed all of 11 pitches
to strike out the side. The left-hander wound up tying a career
high with seven strikeouts, and he departed after allowing three
runs on three hits and five walks over six innings.

"It seems like we don't take adversity very well," Nationals
manager Frank Robinson said. "If we get down two or three runs in
the first inning, it seems the air goes out of the balloon. We
don't have the energy, pep or whatever ... to try to battle back."

Reliever Jon Rauch replaced Day in the fourth, and his first
pitch was slapped to left by Biggio for a two-run single, making it
6-1.

Bowden said Rauch left the game and threw up, "and it wasn't
just because of the baseball he was watching."

Houston added two runs off lefty Mike Stanton with the help of a
balk and two walks in the sixth, and another off Eischen in the
seventh with the help of a hit batter and passed ball.

What scattered fans were left by then whistled and jeered when
Eischen had a tough time completing an intentional walk of Ensberg,
twice throwing balls that Gonzalez barely grabbed.

Game notes
C Eric Munson, batting fifth for the first time this
season, had three hits for Houston. ... Taveras scored three runs
against Kansas City on June 18, 2005. ... Biggio played in his
2,607th game to move into 33rd on the career list; his 939th
extra-base hit moved him into 40th on that list.