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Kent slugs homer in first at-bat with Astros

4/1/2003

HOUSTON (AP) --The Houston Astros wanted more offense. Jeff Kent
and Jeff Bagwell gave it to them immediately.

Kent hit a home run in his first at-bat for Houston and Bagwell
homered twice as the Astros won their season opener Tuesday night,
10-4 over the Colorado Rockies.

Kent, the 2000 NL MVP, helped lead the San Francisco Giants to
the World Series last year. He signed an $18.2 million, two-year
contract with the Astros in the offseason, joining Bagwell and
Lance Berkman in the middle of a powerful lineup.

``With the welcome I received from the fans, I did not want to let them down,'' Kent said. ``As long as I've been in the game, I know enough that you don't get off to a bad start. So for all things that came together for me tonight, it means a lot.''

Roy Oswalt pitched seven strong innings and the Astros roughed
up NL Rookie of the Year Jason Jennings in their first home opener
since their stadium was renamed Minute Maid Park.

Kent finished 3-for-5 and scored twice. Bagwell hit a solo homer
and a two-run shot, while Geoff Blum also homered and knocked in
three runs.

``Kent had a fine game,'' manager Jimy Williams said. ``His
first at-bat certainly has to make you feel great. Bagwell had a
great game, too, to say the least.''

The Astros piled up 14 hits, including six off Jennings in a six-run third inning.

Bagwell's 27th career multihomer game made him the second player
in franchise history to hit more than one home run in a season
opener. Roman Mejias homered twice against the Chicago Cubs in
1962, the first game in franchise history.

``I've got a bunch of guys around me who can pick me up if I get down,'' Bagwell said. ``Jeff is a great hitter. He's proven it year after year. He brings you a .300 average, 100 RBI every year. That takes the pressure off to have a guy like him around.''

Houston and Colorado were the last two NL teams to start their
seasons.

Oswalt, who went 19-9 last season with a 3.01 ERA, held the
Rockies to four hits and two runs -- one earned.

``It seems the later in the game it goes, the more I feel
comfortable,'' Oswalt said. ``Those late innings, you can almost
close your eyes and throw. I kept telling myself, 'Don't try to do
too much.' The thing guys do in the first game is try too hard and
overthrow.''

Jennings gave up eight runs and nine hits in four innings.

``It just kind of snowballed,'' he said. ``Mistakes are going to
happen, but that many in an inning will kill you. I was making
mistakes against the heart of their order and I just couldn't get
that groundball to get out of the inning.''

Kent homered over the right-field fence off Jennings in the second inning.

Houston blew it open in the third with four straight hits -- singles by Oswalt and Craig Biggio, a two-run double by Blum and a
two-run homer by Bagwell.

An RBI double by Richard Hidalgo and a sacrifice fly by Brad Ausmus completed the big inning for a 7-2 lead.

``He just couldn't make any pitches when he had to,'' Rockies
manager Clint Hurdle said of Jennings. ``The thing you don't worry
about Jason is that he's not going to take it to heart. We know
that he's ready to go back out there.''

Biggio, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner at second base, played
his first game of the season in center field. He agreed to move to
make room for Kent.

Preston Wilson doubled and scored on a second-inning single by Jose Hernandez for Colorado. The Rockies got two more runs in the eighth off Bruce Chen on an RBI triple by Larry Walker and a single by Wilson.

A throwing error by Kent in the third inning allowed a run to score.

Game notes
Part of the pregame ceremony honored the seven astronauts
who died aboard space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1. Seven first
pitches were thrown simultaneously by family and friends of the
fallen astronauts. The Astros will wear a patch on their right
sleeves throughout the season to honor the astronauts. ... Seven
Rockies from the 2002 opening-day roster remain on the team. ... 2B
Ron Belliard became the first non-roster invitee to spring training
in Rockies history to start on opening day. ... The Rockies went
26-55 on the road last season and 47-34 at Coors Field.