HOUSTON (AP) -- Jason Lane took an unusual post-game batting
practice with hitting coach Gary Gaetti after a disappointing
performance Friday night.
It paid off for Lane and the Houston Astros on Saturday night.Lane's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning led the
Astros to their fifth win in six games, rallying for a 4-3 victory
over the Chicago Cubs."Last night, I was horrible in my one at-bat and it came at a
time when we might have gotten something going if I would have done
something," said Lane, who grounded into a fielder's choice as a
pinch hitter with runners on first and second early in the Astros'
9-2 loss Friday."So I stayed after the game and worked on my hitting," Lane
said.Lane worked with Gaetti for about 45 minutes."We worked on little things and made some progress," Lane
said. "I just was more comfortable at the plate tonight."Jeff Kent led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and
moved to third when Morgan Ensberg reached on a throwing error by
third baseman Jose Macias. Kent scored on Jose Vizcaino's single to
tie it.After pinch-hitter Mike Lamb reached on an intentional walk to
load the bases, Lane singled to right, scoring Ensberg with the
winning run."The guys ahead of me did a great job, Morgan getting the bunt
down and Viz coming up with the big hit. I just felt I had to do my
part," Lane said. "Once I got it to 2-0, I felt I could be more
aggressive. I didn't get the pitch I wanted, but I was able to get
the bat on it."Lane has played sparingly in his first full season in the
majors."I think that every at-bat he gets is a confidence booster. He
has been a run-producer in the minor leagues and used to being the
man who drives in the big runs," Houston manager Phil Garner said.
"Not playing every day has been hard on him, but clearly he
belongs in this league. That was a really big hit."Brad Lidge (4-6) earned the win, striking struck out three in 1
1-3 innings. He gave up two runs on three hits.LaTroy Hawkins (2-4) allowed two runs on three hits in 1-3 of an
inning and took the loss."Lane hit a good pitch, I can live with that," Hawkins said.
"We've been playing too good to let one loss get us down."Chicago's Aramis Ramirez led off the eighth with a single, and
pinch-runner Macias then scored on Michael Barrett's triple. Ramon
Martinez drove in Barrett with a sacrifice fly, giving the Cubs
their first lead of the game at 3-2.Brandon Backe struck out four and walked three, while holding
the Cubs to four hits over seven innings in his first major league
start. Only two Chicago baserunners reached second.A walk to Kent, an intentional walk to Vizcaino and a walk to
Brad Ausmus loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning for
Houston. Backe then bounced a two-run single up the middle for the
first hit of the game, giving the Astros an early lead.It was Backe's first major league hit in just his third plate
appearance."His pitching and his hitting were outstanding. He did a great
job of using all of his pitches and going inside," Garner said.
"Look at all the bats he snapped off with inside pitches. He
pitched like he's been pitching against these guys for a long
time."Chicago moved within 2-1 in the eighth when reliever Dan Miceli
allowed a single to Corey Patterson and walked Derrek Lee.
Patterson scored on a single by Moises Alou.Miceli was lifted in favor of Brad Lidge, who struck out Sammy
Sosa to end the rally."In close games like that, it comes down to who makes the
fewest mistakes," Patterson said. "And tonight, it was them."
Craig Biggio is three hits away from becoming the first
Astros player to reach 2,600 career hits. ... Carlos Beltran stole
his 30th base and needs one homer to record his first 30-30 season
and the 45th in major league history. ... The Cubs have hit at
least one homer in 31 of their last 38 games ... Moises Alou has 21
home runs in 384 at-bats against Houston, his former team.