Astros 11, Devil Rays 8

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HOUSTON (AP)—Lou Piniella and Houston Astros were up to their old tricks, with Piniella kicking dirt in a fiery argument and the Astros pulling off another late-inning comeback.

After blowing a 7-0 lead, Houston scored four times in the eighth inning to beat Piniella’s Tampa Bay Devil Rays 11-8 on Friday night—the Astros’ 21st comeback win of the season.

“It’s not something you like to do every night,” Houston star Jeff Bagwell said. “You’d rather keep leads. At least it shows good character for us to be able to come back after that.”

Houston has outscored opponents 88-25 in the eighth and ninth.

“We’ve got some fighters in here,” said Jeff Kent, who drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run single. “Of course, another thing is we have good pitching in the late innings. We get the bullpen to shut them down while we’re coming back.”

Houston, which moved past the Chicago Cubs into first place in the NL Central, led 7-0 after two innings. But the Devil Rays took an 8-7 lead in the eighth on Marlon Anderson’s RBI double off Octavio Dotel (5-1).

After Morgan Ensberg scored on Kent’s hit, Piniella was ejected by plate umpire Matt Hollowell for arguing that catcher Toby Hall tagged the runner before he touched the plate.

“The replay showed the runner was out,” said Piniella, who kicked dirt on the plate during his theatric tirade. “That’s what got me going. Am I supposed to look at the replay? No, but it’s there. The (umpire) tells me he’s working hard. We’re all working hard. It’s about working hard and making the right call.”

Bagwell got a kick out of Piniella’s antics.

“It was a mildly entertaining game,” Bagwell said. “We came back and won and people got to see Lou do his thing.”

Tampa Bay’s Travis Harper (0-4) failed to hold the lead in the eighth as Houston loaded the bases for Kent with one out on singles by Orlando Merced and Ensberg and a walk to Bagwell.

After Kent’s go-ahead single, Mike Venafro relieved and threw a run-scoring wild pitch on his first delivery. One out later, Geoff Blum batted for Dotel and singled home another run.

Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his 17th save in 18 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Nick Bierbrodt left after failing to get an out in the second, the shortest outing of his career. He allowed seven runs, four hits and five walks.

Houston starter Jeriome Robertson allowed three runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings.

The Astros scored six runs in the first on Ensberg’s two-run homer, Lance Berkman’s RBI grounder and Adam Everett’s three-run homer. Berkman added a sacrifice fly in the second.

Travis Lee’s three-run homer in the fourth started Tampa Bay’s comeback. Anderson hit a solo homer in the fifth, Jared Sandberg added a two-run shot in the sixth and Tampa Bay tied it in the seventh when Ensberg allowed Lee’sinfield pop in front of the plate to drop for an error.


The Astros said Richard Hidalgo, on the DL since May 23 with tonsillitis, would be activated for Saturday’s game. OF Colin Porter will be sent back to Triple-A New Orleans. … Berkman’s single in the fifth stretched his hitting streak to 13 games. … Bagwell hasn’t homered in 114 at-bats sinceMay 5, when he hit his 11th against Pittsburgh and took the NL lead.

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