HOUSTON -- Jeff Keppinger found a quick way to endear himself to his new team: He won a game in his first at-bat.
Exactly one week after being traded to Houston, Keppinger hit a broken-bat single in the 10th inning off closer Kevin Gregg that gave the Astros a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.It was Keppinger's first game with the team after being acquired from the Reds. He batted .140 for Cincinnati this spring."It's definitely a good welcome and hopefully I can keep doing it," Keppinger said.Hunter Pence homered and Michael Bourn had an RBI single for the Astros, who carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth before Alfonso Soriano hit a long home run off LaTroy Hawkins.Ivan Rodriguez opened the bottom of the 10th with an infield single down the third-base line, his first hit with Houston after starting the season 0-for-7. Lance Berkman followed with another single off Neal Cotts (0-1) before Cubs manager Lou Piniella brought in Gregg.Rodriguez advanced to third when pinch-hitter Jason Michaels flied out to center. Miguel Tejada was intentionally walked, loading the bases for Keppinger, who entered as a pinch-runner in the ninth.Keppinger snapped his bat and stumbled out of the box on his grounder between third and shortstop that scored Rodriguez."It's always nice to contribute," Rodriguez said. "Keppinger came late, I came late and we are both helping the team win ballgames and that's why we're here."Houston earned its first win of the season after the Cubs won 4-2 on Monday behind Carlos Zambrano.Aaron Miles reached base with two outs in the top of the 10th on a throwing error by Tejada at shortstop. Doug Brocail (1-0) retired Soriano for the third out.Astros closer Jose Valverde pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. He was helped out when Tejada grabbed a grounder by Reed Johnson, spun all the way around and threw out Johnson at first.Soriano's homer bounced off the railroad tracks atop the wall in left-center. He also homered on the second pitch of Monday night's game.Bourn put the Astros on top 2-1 with his RBI single in the sixth.Pence tied it at 1 with a homer to left-center in the fifth. It landed in a section of Berkman fans who dress up in puma costumes in honor of the slugger's nickname, "Big Puma." The group of more than a half-dozen waved the paws of their mustard yellow and white costumes and jumped around wildly as Pence circled the bases.Kaz Matsui tripled later in the inning before Ryan Dempster walked Rodriguez. Dempster got out of the inning when Berkman struck out.Ryan Theriot doubled and scored on a single by Derrek Lee in the third inning to make it 1-0 Cubs.Dempster sailed through the first few innings and didn't allow a hit until a single by Tejada with two outs in the fourth."Dempster did a nice job," Piniella said. "He gave us six good innings. We just didn't score any runs."Dempster, who had a career-high 17 wins and made the All-Star team last season, gave up six hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings."I felt good," he said. "For the most part I liked the way I threw the ball. I just wish the results would have been better. We were right there. We had a chance."Angel Guzman struck out two in a scoreless seventh for the Cubs.Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez allowed four hits and one run in six innings. He struck out four and walked three."It was a beautiful game today," he said. "We won. That's all we want. Today I felt great."Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was replaced by Koyie Hill in the sixth because of soreness in his right shoulder."I overexposed my shoulder on a throw," Soto said. "After that I just felt bad. It's the same thing that happened earlier in the spring. But if I just stay on top of my exercises I'll be all right in a couple of days."
The Astros commemorated the 10th anniversary of Minute Maid Park with a pregame ceremony featuring a player or coach representing each year. Those involved in the ceremony included Larry Dierker, Jeff Kent and Phil Garner. ... The Cubs will participate in three home openers this season. They opened Houston's home schedule on Monday, will do the same in Milwaukee on Friday and finally open their home schedule next Monday. ... Tuesday was the first time in his career that Ivan Rodriguez caught for another Rodriguez.