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Sheets beats Astros for third time this season

9/18/2002

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Houston Astros are going to have to have to win nearly every game to have any hope of catching the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

Ben Sheets beat the Houston for the third time this season, and the Milwaukee Brewers damaged the Astros' faint postseason hopes with a 5-4 victory Tuesday night.

"If there is any outside chance of us getting in, it definitely has to be us sweeping the rest of the season and St. Louis falling off the boat,'' Geoff Blum said.

After returning to the starting lineup for his first game since
Sept. 10 -- he had been out with a strained right oblique muscle -- Blum hit a long fly ball down the right-field line that just landed foul. He ended up punching a single to right that advanced a runner to third, but reliever Luis Vizcaino struck out pinch-hitter Mark Loretta to end the game.

"He kept pumping fastballs and got them by me tonight,''
Loretta said.

Houston, which has 11 games remaining, fell to 7½ games
behind first-place St. Louis with the loss.

"We'll come back here tomorrow and to try and win,'' Astros
manager Jimy Williams said. "That's all we can do.''

Sheets (10-16) has won four straight decisions against the
Astros, allowing six hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts
and no walks. Daryle Ward hit a solo homer in the fourth and Craig
Biggio had a two-run homer in the eighth.

Sheets said that he wasn't thinking the least bit about being in
the role of a spoiler.

"That never crossed my mind,'' he said. "We're just trying to
take care of our business.''

Sheets left with Milwaukee up 5-3. Brewers manager Jerry Royster
found out during the middle of the game that his closer Mike DeJean
was unavailable.

"His back locked up on him,'' Royster said.

Vizcaino got three outs for his fifth save in six chances,
allowing an RBI grounder to Brad Ausmus. With runners on first and
third and two outs, Vizcaino fanned Loretta, traded to the Astros
on Aug. 31 for Wayne Franklin and Keith Ginter.

Kirk Saarloos (6-6) allowed five runs -- four earned -- and six
hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Milwaukee's Ryan Thompson tore his right hamstring running down
the first-base line on a leadoff hit in the third. Thompson, who
will miss the rest of the season, hopped down the line on his left
leg and grimacing, dived onto the bag.

"He's torn his tendon off the bone,'' Royster said.

Eric Young, who had missed three games with a mild strain of his
right hip flexor, doubled and scored on a double by Ginter in the
first, and Jorge Fabregas hit an RBI double in the second.

Milwaukee added three runs in the sixth. Ryan Chistenson had a
squeeze bunt, and a second run scored when Saarloos scooped the
ball with his glove and flipped the ball past Ausmus at the plate
for an error. Febregas added a sacrifice fly off Jeriome
Robertson.

Game notes
Houston RHP Brad Lidge (1-0) is to make his first major league start Wednesday. He has five relief appearances. ... Young left last Wednesday's game against St. Louis in the sixth inning.
... Jeff Bagwell's single in the second extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... Sheets has given up at least one home run in nine of his last 12 starts.