for this game

Pence, Berkman power Astros past Nationals

Jul 13, 2008 - 4:00 AM By Rich Dubroff PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- For the Houston Astros, 24 hours made all the difference.

Hunter Pence and Lance Berkman combined to drive in five runs and lead the Astros to a 6-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

After finding itself on the wrong end of a 10-0 loss to Washington on Friday, Houston used a 13-hit attack to halt a stretch in which it had dropped eight of 10 games.

"(Just a) different night," Berkman said. "One night, it doesn't go your way, and the next night, it seems like you get two or three of those big hits. That's what we have to continue to do if we want to continue to win some games."

With a runner on and the Astros trailing, 2-1, in the fourth inning, Pence drove a high fastball from Nationals rookie Collin Balester (1-2) into the seats in left field for his 12th home run of the season.

Pence noticed a change in fortune on Saturday after the humiliating loss to the Nationals in the series opener.

"Nothing was happening (Friday)," Pence said. "Nothing was running for us yesterday, and today, it seemed to happen. The ball seemed to bounce in different ways. We had a lot of energy, we played hard and everyone chipped in."

Houston stretched its lead to 6-2 in the fifth. Darin Erstad reached on an error by third baseman Ronnie Belliard and Kaz Matsui followed with a double, setting the stage for Berkman to drive in both with a double.

"Everything looks great when you score six runs and win the ballgame," Berkman said. "When you get shutout, 10-0, it doesn't look the same. Certainly, winning covers a multitude of evils and makes you look good."

Four batters later, Pence plated the Astros' final run with a hard-hit grounder that eluded diving shortstop Cristian Guzman for a single.

Wandy Rodriguez (4-3) pitched just well enough to extend his unbeaten streak to five games, surrendering four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Chris Sampson and Geoff Geary bridged the gap to closer Jose Valverde, who set down the Nationals in order in the ninth for his 24th save in 29 opportunities.

In just his third major league start, Balester allowed six runs - four earned - and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"You learn from failure and I'm starting to learn a lot more," Balester said. "The next start's going to be a lot better."

"I think my guys have the ability to take advantage of most pitchers," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said.

However, Berkman, who will be the National League's starting first baseman in Tuesday's All-Star Game, doesn't sound as if he would be all that surprised if the 22-year-old Balester takes part in the "Midsummer Classic" at some point in his career.

"He's going to be tough, so you get him while you can get him," Berkman said.

Carlos Lee, who collected three hits, opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first inning, but Guzman forged a 1-1 tie with a sacrifice fly in the bottom half.

In the second, Belliard led off with a double and scored on Jesus Flores' single, giving Washington its only lead of the contest.

Following the Astros' five-run explosion over the fourth and fifth innings, the Nationals drew within 6-4 in the sixth. Willie Harris led off the frame with his fifth homer of the season and Flores was hit by a pitch from Sampson with the bases loaded, forcing in Paul Lo Duca.

However, Sampson avoided further damage by inducing Wily Mo Pena to hit into a 1-2-3, inning-ending double play - one of four turned by Houston.

"That was the at-bat that probably (deflated) us," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "It took all the air out of us right there. He chased a pitch low and out of the zone in that situation and made their night, basically. ... Right now, he's just lost at the plate."








  • NL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    HOUSTON 1 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 6 13 0
    WASHINGTON 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 4 9 2 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: HOU - WANDY RODRIGUEZ, CHRIS SAMPSON (6TH), GEOFF GEARY (8TH), JOSE
    VALVERDE (9TH) AND BRAD AUSMUS
    WAS - COLLIN BALESTER, JESUS COLOME (5TH), SAUL RIVERA
    (6TH), JO

    Jul 12 9:51 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    JESUS FLORES HIT BY CHRIS SAMPSON PITCH WITH BASES LOADED
    SCORED PAUL LO DUCA.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, J FLORES ON FIRST, R BELLIARD ON SECOND, A
    KEARNS ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 6
    WASHINGTON 4 BOTTOM, 6TH
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: W PENA (.207, 0-FOR-2)

    Astros 6, Nationals 4  Bot 6, 0 OutsJul 12 9:00 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SOLO HOME RUN BY WILLIE HARRIS (5) TO RIGHT WITH 0 OUT IN
    THE 6TH OFF WANDY RODRIGUEZ.
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 6, WASHINGTON 3
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: P LO DUCA (.209, 0-FOR-2)

    Astros 6, Nationals 3  Bot 6, 0 OutsJul 12 8:49 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY HUNTER PENCE SCORED LANCE BERKMAN.
    SITUATION: 3 RUNS IN, H PENCE ON FIRST, C LEE ON SECOND, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 6
    WASHINGTON 2 TOP, 5TH
    DUE UP FOR HOUSTON: B AUSMUS (.218, 0-FOR-2)

    Astros 6, Nationals 2  Top 5, 0 OutsJul 12 8:26 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    DOUBLE BY LANCE BERKMAN SCORED DARIN ERSTAD AND KAZ MATSUI.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, L BERKMAN ON SECOND, 0 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 5
    WASHINGTON 2 TOP, 5TH
    DUE UP FOR HOUSTON: C LEE (.296, 1-FOR-2, RBI)

    Astros 5, Nationals 2  Top 5, 0 OutsJul 12 8:20 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY HUNTER PENCE (12) TO LEFT WITH 1 OUT IN
    THE 4TH OFF COLLIN BALESTER SCORED MIGUEL TEJADA.
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 3, WASHINGTON 2
    DUE UP FOR HOUSTON: B AUSMUS (.220, 0-FOR-1)

    Astros 3, Nationals 2  Top 4, 0 OutsJul 12 8:03 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY JESUS FLORES SCORED RONNIE BELLIARD.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, J FLORES ON FIRST, 0 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 1
    WASHINGTON 2 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: W PENA (.209, 2 HR, 10 RBI)

    Astros 1, Nationals 2  Bot 2, 0 OutsJul 12 7:42 PM


  • NL
    AT WASHINGTON - SCORING UPDATE
    SACRIFICE FLY BY CRISTIAN GUZMAN SCORED WILLIE HARRIS.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, NONE ON, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 1
    WASHINGTON 1 BOTTOM, 1ST
    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: A KEARNS (.208, 4 HR, 24 RBI)

    Astros 1, Nationals 1  Bot 1, 0 OutsJul 12 7:31 PM


  • NL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    HOUSTON 1 1 3 0
    WASHINGTON 0 0 0 (BOT 1)

    CURRENT PITCHERS: HOU - WANDY RODRIGUEZ
    WAS - COLLIN BALESTER

    DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: W HARRIS (.216, 4 HR, 12 RBI)
    P LO DUCA (.213, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
    C GUZMAN (.317, 5 HR, 2

    Astros 1, Nationals 0  Bot 1, 0 OutsJul 12 7:23 PM