Astros 11, Orioles 6

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HOUSTON (AP)—Morgan Ensberg is still learning his way around the big leagues. He even needed prodding to take a bow for his first career grand slam.

Ensberg’s shot in the eighth inning helped the Houston Astros rally for an 11-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

“I didn’t know what to do,” the second-year third baseman said. “We don’t get those often and Brad Ausmus put his hand on my chest and pushed me back up (out of the dugout).

“I guess that was the signal that you’ve got to do it. That made me feel really good.”

Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent also homered for the Astros, who moved within a game of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

With Houston trailing 6-5 in the eighth, Berkman led off with a triple to the right-center gap and scored on Orlando Merced’s double.

Buddy Groom (1-3) walked Ausmus, Adam Everett sacrificed and a throwing error by third baseman Tony Batista gave Houston the lead.

After pinch-hitter Geoff Blum was intentionally walked and Biggio struck out, Ensberg hit his eighth homer of the year to left off Kerry Ligtenberg.

Ensberg is making the most of his second chance with the Astros after spending most of last season in Triple-A.

“You feel more comfortable the second time around,” Ensberg said. “My approach last year was really poor. It wasn’t necessarily mechanical, there were things I fixed. I feel more comfortable and I understand my role.”

Octavio Dotel (4-1) got the victory despite giving up the go-ahead run in the eighth. Baltimore had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Orioles starter Jason Johnson complained about Minute Maid Field.

“This place is like a crackerjack box,” Johnson said. “This field is a joke. It’s a ridiculous place to pitch. You’ve got to get groundballs with every hitter or they hit it out. I was really upset with the way I pitched in the fifth.

“I should have gotten a loss. I got a no-decision, but the way I pitched I deserved to lose.”

It was the third time this season the Astros hit four homers in a game, and Ensberg connected for their second slam of the year. Ausmus had one against St. Louis on April 4.

Luis Matos’ second RBI of the game gave the Orioles a 6-5 lead in the eighth.

With two outs, Matos drove a double off Dotel to the left-field corner, scoring Brian Roberts, who reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second and third.

Trailing 5-1 in the fifth, the Astros scored four runs on solo homers by Biggio and Berkman and a two-run shot by Kent following a double by Jeff Bagwell off Jason Johnson.

It was the first time the Astros hit three homers in one inning since June 21, 2001, against Cincinnati.

“That got us right back in the game,” Ensberg said. “That’s a big motivator right there. I think you saw the momentum start to swing. Three home runs in one inning is awesome. That got us back into the game.”

Baltimore’s Melvin Mora singled in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games.

Johnson, who has won only once since going 4-0 in April, held Houston to four hits and an RBI single by Kent until the Astros’ big fifth inning. Johnson allowed eight hits and five runs, four earned, in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.

Houston starter Tim Redding, who hasn’t won since May 2, lasted only four innings.

Roberts doubled with two outs in the third and scored Baltimore’s first run on a single by Matos, who has hit safely in all 10 games since he was called up from Triple-A Ottawa.

Roberts drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single with two outs in the fourth inning. Jay Gibbons also had a solo homer in the inning, his ninth of the season, for a 4-1 lead. Deivi Cruz added an RBI single in the fifth.

Redding allowed seven hits and four runs. He left trailing 5-1.


The Orioles are 14-3 when their starting pitcher goes at least seven innings. … The Astros lead the NL with 64 double plays. … The Astros will go on the road in interleague play against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and have a home-and-home series with the Texas Rangers. … Since opening day 2001, the Astros are 178-4 when leading after eight innings. … Houston’s Billy Wagner needs three saves to tie Dave Smith’s club record of 199. … Itwas the first meeting between the teams.

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