Astros 2, Devil Rays 1

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HOUSTON (AP)—Billy Wagner set the Astros’ record for saves and promptly thanked Todd Jones.

“When I first came up, they wanted me to start,” Wagner said. “If it hadn’t have been for Todd Jones going on the DL that year, I might never have gotten a chance to close. Thanks to Jonesy for getting me started.”

Wagner pitched a one-hit ninth inning Sunday that completed Houston’s seventh straight win, a three-hit, 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

It was his 200th save, one more than Dave Smith’s previous team record.

Wagner made 72 starts in the minors, but wasn’t all that interested in starting.

“I tried to talk them out of it when they first said I’d start,” he said. “They told me it would be good for me to work on my curve. But I never enjoyed starting. I couldn’t stand that.”

Wagner has 19 saves in 20 chances, converting his last 15 opportunities.

“He is, to say the least, a tremendous closer,” Astros manager Jimy Williams said. “He’s a standup guy who accepts responsibility for whatever he does. Maybe that’s why he’s so good as a closer. He’s like an everyday player. He wants to be out there when the game is on the line. That’s what it takes to be an outstanding closer.”

Tampa Bay was surprised by a slick pickoff move Wagner made to throw out pinch-runner Jason Tyner for the second out of the ninth inning.

“Wagner is slow to the plate, so if you can read him right you, can steal some bases,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “He just didn’t read him right.”

Tim Redding (4-4) allowed one run and two hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked one, retiring his final 18 batters. He has won three straight starts.

Tampa Bay has lost four straight and seven of eight. Victor Zambrano (2-4) gave up both runs and four hits in seven innings.

“I was trying to be aggressive today, especially with the kind of hitters they have,” Zambrano said. “I was just trying to stay away from them as much as I could. I felt very good today.”

Houston’s Geoff Blum was 2-for-3 and drove in the go-ahead run. The Astros matched their longest winning streak this season.

Tampa Bay took the lead for the third straight day. Rocco Baldelli singled in the first, stole second and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Jose Vizcaino, who was trying to complete a double play on Travis Lee’s grounder.

Houston, which had six hits, went ahead in the second when Lance Berkman doubled, Orlando Merced tripled and Blum hit a sacrifice fly.

Astros second baseman Jeff Kent made a leaping stab to catch MarlonAnderson’s liner in the sixth.


Jeff Bagwell has gone a career-high 121 at-bats without a home run since connecting May 5 against Pittsburgh for his then NL-high 11th. He went 120 at-bats between homers from Aug. 6 to Sept 14, 1992. … The game took 1 hour, 54 minutes, the shortest in Minute Maid Park history and the shortest involving an NL team this season … Berkman extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest for the Astros this year. … Devil Rays pitchers are 0-for-8 at the plate against the NL this season … Aubrey Huff ended anine-game hitting streak by going 0-for-2 with a walk.

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