Astros avoid sweep, beat Rangers, 12-9

By: From Wire Reports
By: From Wire Reports

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Craig Biggio got another milestone hit, even though he's still a few shy of 3,000. This one finally put the Houston Astros ahead to stay.

Biggio's 2,996th career hit was a tiebreaking RBI double in the 10th inning, helping the Astros to a wild 12-9 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday night and avoid a series sweep.

Biggio finished 3-for-5 with a walk, getting the 41-year-old second baseman within four hits of becoming only the 27th player with 3,000. The double was the 658th of his career, No. 6 on the career list, and the most ever by a right-handed hitter.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. That was a pretty special one right there," Biggio said. "It was a big run for us right there. To come back like we did, there are a lot of heroes."

The Astros have a three-game series at Milwaukee before returning for an 11-game homestand in Houston, where Biggio has spent his entire 20-season career. The team has made it clear that Biggio's 3,000th hit won't come on the road.

Even in the other major league park in Texas, fans were chanting "Big-gio" when he came to bat.

"I'm excited about it, the fans cheering for you. It's great, I love Texas," Biggio said. "To win this way was pretty exciting."

After the Astros' bullpen blew another save -- allowing six runs in the eighth and ninth innings -- Biggio's one-out hustling double scored Morgan Ensberg, who led off the 10th with a single off C.J. Wilson (0-1). Biggio came home on a single by Lance Berkman to make it 11-9.

"That was the ultimate of winning ugly," manager Phil Garner said. "The good news is our offense stepped up and did a super, super job and pulled it out for us."

Dan Wheeler (1-4) pitched two innings, allowing three home runs in a span of seven batters. Chad Qualls pitched the 10th for his second save in four chances.

Astros rookie center fielder Hunter Pence finished his first big-league series in his hometown going 4-for-6 with a homer. He scored four runs, including the last one for Houston on a grounder.

Houston relievers have blown 13 of 25 save chances, this time by giving up a four-run eighth inning after rookie starter Chris Sampson scattered five hits and allowed three runs. Sampson left with a 7-3 lead after the seventh inning, throwing 67 of 96 pitches for strikes.

Rick White allowed singles to the only two batters he faced to start the eighth before Wheeler, the closer again with Brad Lidge on the disabled list, struck out Michael Young. But Sammy Sosa then hit a two-run single and Frank Catalanotto, a .192 hitter, hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 7.

After Loretta's two-run double in the ninth put Houston up, Wheeler gave up a homer to pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd on the first pitch in the bottom of the frame and Ian Kinsler tied the game with a two-out homer -- his 14th of the season.

"We fought hard and got back in it more than once," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

Pence led off the ninth with a double off Eric Gagne, the Rangers closer who allowed only one run his first 21 appearances. Pence leads all NL rookies with a .353 average (73-for-207) and 35 RBIs in his 50 games since being called up April 27. He has eight homers.

"He was one of my favorite players to watch in high school and college," Pence said of Gagne. "I had to put my fan sense aside and concentrate. ... It's always fun when you win, espeically at the ballpark where I watched so many games as a kid."

The 24-year-old Pence, who played at Arlington High and UT-Arlington before the Astros took him in the second round of the 2004 draft, hit a solo homer in the third to give Houston a 4-0 lead.

Kenny Lofton had a two-run homer for the Rangers, who had a season-best four-game winning streak snapped but had already claimed the 2 1/2 -foot tall Silver Boot Trophy that goes to the winner of the Lone Star Series. Texas won four of six games against the Astros this season.

Berkman extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his homer in the first after Biggio and Pence both had singles to start the game against Robinson Tejeda. It was Berkman's 10th homer and came after he missed Saturday with a bruised right hand.

Tejeda's only four walks came in the fourth, including Biggio with two outs and the bases loaded to make it 5-2. Pence then hit a grounder, but third baseman Ramon Vazquez threw the ball into right field for an error that allowed two more runs to score and chased Tejeda. ^Notes: The Rangers finished 11-7 in interleague play. They are only 19-37 (.339 winning percentage) against AL foes. ... Houston leads the Lone Star Series 22-20. ... Astros 3B Mike Lamb extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the seventh.


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