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Astros hand Rangers seventh straight loss

6/23/2003

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Lance Berkman got the Houston Astros on
the scoreboard with a long home run, then got a much more painful
RBI.

Berkman homered and Jose Vizcaino then hit a tiebreaking RBI
triple in the sixth inning Sunday night. An inning later, the
slugger got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and the Astros
beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 Sunday night to complete a three-game
sweep.

"I'll take it any way I can get an RBI in that situation,''
Berkman said of the seventh-inning pitch that hit him on the foot.
"On the home run, I got a good pitch to hit and fortunately swung
at it. After that, the guys behind me did a good job.''

The NL Central-leading Astros were scoreless against Joaquin
Benoit (2-3) until Berkman's two-out solo homer tied the game. His 13th homer was a 408-foot shot into the second deck of stands in
right.

Richard Hidalgo then doubled before Vizcaino's triple that
chased Benoit.

Houston loaded the bases in the seventh on a single, a sacrifice
bunt, an intentional walk and another walk. Berkman was hit by
Aaron Fultz, the third Texas pitcher in the inning.

"I told him that was the way to drive that run in,'' Astros
manager Jimy Williams said.

The Rangers have lost 19 of 21 games, their worst stretch since
also going 2-19 in September 1972. Their seven-game losing skid is
the longest current streak in the majors.

"When you are in a funk like we are, everyone's pressing a bit.
You can't will it to happen,'' Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez said.
"We just have to relax, smile and enjoy the game.''

Jeriome Robertson (5-3) is unbeaten since April 25, but needed
help getting out of a jam after walking three straight batters in
the sixth. Kirk Saarloos struck out the next two batters to end the
Texas threat.

"I came in just trying to get a double-play ball,'' Saarloos
said. "I got two strikes on the first guy and was able to expand
the strike zone. Then I got two strikes on the second guy.''

Billy Wagner got four outs for his 21st save in 23 chances.

Robertson had a career-high five walks, but allowed just one run
on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is 4-0 in his last nine starts,
with shorter outings only twice in the stretch.

Mark Teixeira homered in the first for a 1-0 Texas lead. That
was his 10th, matching Detroit's Eric Munson for the most homers by a rookie in the majors.

Berkman prevented a Texas run in the third, playing Michael
Young's double off the left-field wall and then throwing a strike
to shortstop Adam Everett for the relay home that pegged Doug
Glanville trying to score from first.

"The story wasn't me, it was the defense,'' Robertson said.
"The play at the plate was a big key.''

But the Astros didn't get a hit off of Benoit until Hidalgo's
flare to right in the fourth, which tipped off the outstretched
glove of second baseman Young.

"Joaquin was outstanding. I would have liked to see us do
better against Robertson,'' Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.

Benoit was activated from the disabled list (right elbow
inflammation) to make the start. He matched a career high with
eight strikeouts, and was the first Texas starter since April 23 to
make it through the first five innings without giving up a run.

"It think it was one of the best nights I've had,'' Benoit
said. "It's unfortunate we couldn't score runs. I left a couple of
pitches up, the wrong pitch at the wrong time.''

After hitting Craig Biggio to start the game, Benoit got three
strikeouts in the first around a walk. Berkman finally ended
Benoit's shutout streak, hitting a changeup left up in the zone for
the homer, and the right-hander was done two batters later.

Saarloos got his third straight strikeout starting the seventh
when Todd Greene swung at a ball that hit his hand. But the 0-2
pitch never hit the bat and first base umpire Brian Runge ruled it
a swinging strike.

The third Lone Star Series continues with three games next
weekend in Houston. The winner of the season series gets the Silver
Boot, a crystal and silver trophy the Astros currently possess
after winning four of six last season.

Game notes
Houston is 10-5 in interleague play. The Rangers are 2-13.
... Astros 1B Jeff Bagwell got a night off, having started 72 of
the first 74 games. ... Biggio was hit by three pitches the last
two games, and leads the majors with 14 this season. He is the
active leader at 228.