Astros win despite Miller's throw to nobody


HOUSTON (AP) -- After an embarrassing error, Wade Miller just wanted to disappear.

Jeff Kent and the rest of his Houston teammates bailed him out.

Miller's throwing error to an uncovered third base allowed three runs to score, but Kent's tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning sent the Astros to a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

"I wanted to dig a hole behind the mound and crawl in and hope no one would see me,'' Miller said. "I thought my best option was to throw to third base, but I had other options. I chose the wrong one.''

The Astros pulled it out anyway by loading the bases in the
seventh against Josias Manzanillo (0-2) on singles by Craig Biggio,
Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Bagwell. Gabe White struck out Lance Berkman
before John Riedling came on to pitch to Kent.

The 2000 NL MVP hit a deep fly to center field, scoring Biggio
easily with the go-ahead run.

"I was trying to simplify the game a little bit,'' Kent said.
"You just try to put one out there. That's all it was.''

Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his second save. He walked the
first two batters before retiring Jason LaRue, Felipe Lopez and
Barry Larkin to end it.

Brad Lidge (1-0), who replaced Miller in the seventh, went two
scoreless innings for his second major league victory.

"Wade pitched a good game and gave us a chance to win,'' Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "You are always trying to do the right thing and sometimes it doesn't work out. It wasn't from a lack of effort.''

The Reds were trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning when Miller's mistake allowed them to tie it.

After striking out the first two batters, Miller hit LaRue with a pitch, walked pitcher Jimmy Anderson and hit Larkin with a pitch to load the bases.

Aaron Boone then hit a slow roller toward third and Miller threw
without noticing that third baseman Morgan Ensberg also was trying
to field the ball instead of covering the bag.

Miller struck out Adam Dunn for the third time to end the inning.

Reds manager Bob Boone agonized over bobbled balls by his own defense.

"When you are playing against Miller, you have to make those
plays, you can't be giving them extra outs and extra bases,'' he
said. "When you don't hit, it means you've got to do some work or
you've got to change some players.

"I'm not ready to do that yet.''

Miller, 4-0 lifetime against the Reds, pitched six innings. He allowed five hits, three runs -- none earned -- and one walk, striking out six.

Richard Hidalgo hit safely in his seventh straight game to start
Houston's three-run fourth inning off Anderson.

"I got behind on a couple of hitters and I got the ball up
some,'' Anderson said. "But that's a tough lineup. Anytime you
walk the leadoff guy, you've got problems. I couldn't get the
groundball to get me out of the inning.''

Hidalgo singled to left field and Berkman scored from second
when left fielder Dunn bobbled the ball for an error.

Hidalgo went to second on the throw and scored on Brad Ausmus'
triple. Ausmus scored on a sacrifice fly by Ensberg for a 3-0 lead.

"We're not swinging the bats as well as we can,'' Larkin said.
"But the pitching we're facing has a lot to do with it. Sometimes
you run into a buzzsaw and you just have to deal with it.''

Game notes
All three of Cincinnati's victories have come in its last
at-bat. ... The Reds ended a six-game homer streak in which they
hit 12 home runs. ... Biggio needs eight at-bats to reach 8,000 for
his career. ... Hidalgo is the only player to hit safely in
Houston's first seven games. ... Lidge has thrown six scoreless
innings this season.