HOUSTON (AP) -- Woody Williams would not mind pitching more at
Minute Maid Park.
Williams, who played at nearby Cypress-Fairbanks High School and
the University of Houston, won again in the Astros' park to lead
the San Diego Padres to a 7-5 victory Thursday.Williams (5-5) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings,
improving to 8-3 at Minute Maid Park."It's nothing to take away from this [Astros] team," said
Williams, who lives in nearby Fresno and is 10-4 all-time vs.
Houston. "But I just feel comfortable here. I like this park."Williams, who spent 34 days on the disabled list with a strained
left oblique, won his third straight decision despite throwing 102
pitches."I just struggled a lot to get the ball in the strike zone,"
Williams said. "They just wore me down. I was pretty worn out
after the fifth."Manager Bruce Bochy noticed."He was up there quite a bit with his number of pitches for
five innings," Bochy said. "He threw a good game for us."We needed this game in the worst way after losing three
straight and we had to have a good effort from our starter and
score some runs early."Ramon Hernandez capped a six-run fifth inning with a two-run
single in his first game back from the disabled list. Hernandez,
who had been out with a sprained left wrist, played for the first
time since June 18."It was great to have him back," Bochy said. "He's vital for
us. The timing couldn't have been better for him to come back."Trevor Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 24th save in 26
chances. San Diego, which leads the NL West, has still dropped nine
of its last 15.Morgan Ensberg and Craig Biggio homered for Houston, which had
its four-game winning streak snapped with just its second loss in
nine games.Wandy Rodriguez (4-4) went 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs
on five hits and three walks. He struck out five.Rodriguez had retired 12 in a row before Xavier Nady led off the
fifth with a homer to give San Diego a 2-1 lead. Back-to-back RBI
singles by Williams and Dave Roberts made it 4-1.Rodriguez left with the bases loaded and one out and was
replaced by Russ Springer, who threw a wild pitch to allow Williams
to score. Hernandez followed with a two-run single for a 7-1 lead."(Rodriguez) gave up the home run, then the next thing we know,
the bases are loaded," manager Phil Garner said. "The inning just
snowballed and we didn't get out of it."Rodriguez could never recover after allowing Nady's homer."Of course, it affected me," Rodriguez said. "I was pitching
well. Then the guy went out and got a fastball."In the fifth I went with more fastballs and it didn't work.
You can't throw it straight in the big leagues."The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the first when Eric Young lined a
double down the first-base line past a diving Lance Berkman.
Rodriguez retired his next 12 batters and ended the third by
catching a hard line drive by Young right at his feet.Williams retired eight in a row before Biggio hit his 13th homer
on the first pitch of the fourth inning for the Astros' first hit,
tying it at 1.Raul Chavez hit his second home run of the year in the fifth for
Houston's second run. With two outs in the sixth, reliever Rudy
Seanez issued consecutive bases-loaded walks to pinch-hitter
Orlando Palmeiro and Willy Taveras, cutting the Padres' lead to
7-4.Ensberg hit his 23rd homer in the seventh.
Former Astros pitcher Doug Drabek was on the field before
the game because his son, Kyle, was being honored as a member of
the Aflac High School All-America Baseball Classic team. Kyle is a
pitcher/shortstop at The Woodlands. ... Chris Burke was 0-for-4,
ending his career-high hitting streak at 11 games. ... San Diego
hasn't been swept in a four-game series in Houston since April
20-23, 1973. ... Giles had three walks to move back into first in
the NL in walks with 66.