HOUSTON (AP) -- Jason Lane knew that his hitting slump had to end
sometime, and he was ecstatic that it ended in such grand fashion.
The Braves' loss coupled with the Mets' victory dropped Atlanta 10 games behind division-leading New York. Since the Braves' began their run of division titles in 1991, there's been only one other day on which Atlanta trailed its division leader by 10 games: Through games of July 22, 1993, the Braves were in second place in the NL West, 10 games behind the Giants.
Lane, who had just 12 hits in May and entered Sunday's game with
only a pair in June, had three hits, including a three-run homer
and a career-high five RBI to lead the Houston Astros to a 14-4
win over the Atlanta Braves.Eric Munson added two homers as the Astros got hits from 11
different players en route to scoring their most runs of the
season."I felt the last month I was just waiting for a game like
this," said Lane, a career .258 hitter who entered the game
hitting .193. "I thought that at any time I could have one."Munson had a solo homer in the third and a three-run shot in the
sixth. Lane hit his homer in the first inning to help the Astros
jump out to a 4-0 lead. He added a two-run double in the sixth as
Houston built an 11-4 advantage."He's certainly not a .200 hitter," Astros first baseman Lance
Berkman said of Lane. "We all knew that and we knew he was going
to find his swing."The Astros jumped on Horacio Ramirez (2-2) almost immediately,
tagging him for three hits and four runs in the first inning.
Houston was ahead 1-0 when Lane hit a two-out homer just into the
lower deck stands in right field. It was his 10th of the season and
first since May 21."It was good to see Lane have that big day," said Astros
manager Phil Garner. "To have a day like today is really good for
you. All the sudden you feel locked in."Ramirez (2-2) left the game in the second after being knocked to
the ground when he was hit in the forehead by a hit by Berkman.
Ramirez fell flat on his back and then rolled over to his stomach
where he remained motionless for a few seconds before moving.He got up on his own power and was escorted to the bullpen as a
trainer pressed a towel to his forehead.A throwing error by right fielder Jeff Francoeur on the play
allowed both Biggio and Chris Burke to score."The only thing I remember was releasing the pitch," said
Ramirez, who had a swollen forehead. "I don't recall the pitch or
the ball hitting me."Others remember the moment distinctly."It was one of the scariest things I've ever seen in
baseball," catcher Brian McCann said. "It's something you never
wish on anybody. It's awful, but he got up and wanted to keep
pitching."Ramirez said Berkman called to check on him and apologize. But
Ramirez said he "really didn't need to apologize at all. It's just
part of the game."Braves manager Bobby Cox said Ramirez should be fine and that he
expects him to make his next start.Wandy Rodriguez (8-3) allowed seven hits and four runs,
including three homers, and struck out five in six innings. He
wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in his last start when he pitched
seven shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. But with
the Astros hitting the way they were on Sunday, he didn't have to
be.Francoeur scored on a groundout by Brian Jordan after getting on
with a triple in the second. In the third Chipper Jones homered
before Francoeur hit his 13th home run of the season.Munson's solo home run in the third and Mike Lamb's sacrifice
fly made it 9-3.Garner was impressed with Munson's performance. His four RBI
are a career-high and it was his third multi home run game."He's been really a nice surprise," Garner said. "I didn't
realize he was going to catch as well as he has when we saw him in
spring training. But he is really starting to hit too and I think
he's just going to get better and better."Edgar Renteria hit his second home run of the series to left
center field in the fifth that made it 9-4.Chris Reitsma lasted just 2/3 innings after allowing seven hits
and five runs in the sixth inning.The loss drops the Braves to 3-11 in the last 14 games."We hit the ball...extremely well all day long but we didn't
have a good day pitching -- that's for sure," Cox said. "The off
day comes for us at a good time."
Sunday was the first career appearance at Minute Maid Park
for Ramirez. ... The Astros concluded a 10-game homestand Sunday
and go on a short three-game road trip to face the Chicago Cubs on
Tuesday. ... Burke left Sunday's game in the fifth inning with a
bruised left elbow after being hit by a pitch earlier in the game.
He was listed as day-to-day. ... The Astros' win gives them
back-to-back series wins for the first time since April.