Astros 5, Expos 1
HOUSTON (AP)—Jeriome Robertson returned to his winning ways on the mound by not thinking so much about pitching.
Robertson (11-5) had a six-game winning streak before losing his last two decisions. The rookie left-hander pitched 6 1-3 innings and allowed five hits and one run after not throwing in the bullpen since his last start.
“It’s kind of getting late in the year, I decided to take some time off and not even think about it,” Robertson said. “I’ve done a lot of work with (pitching coach Burt) Hooton and I’ve worked a lot on mechanics and I just got away from that.”
Orlando Merced connected the 11th pinch-hit homer of his career, a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his first pinch-hit home run of the season and the Astros’ fifth of the year.
“It feels good to do something to help our team get a win,” Merced said. “I was trying to make contact to get a run in and I got a little better pitch and was able to drive it over the fence.”
Robertson escaped trouble in the first inning when Berkman’s throw from left field cut down Jose Vidro at the plate.
“From that distance, you can pretty much throw it on the fly,” Berkman said. “It wasn’t like I was 40 yards farther back. On a throw like that, you just try to get it on a line and I was fortunate enough to get it there before he did.”
The Astros then took a 3-0 lead in the second against Javier Vazquez (9-8). Vazquez had walked just two in his previous four starts, but he walked three in the inning.
“It seem to be tough night after night day after day on the road,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said. “We couldn’t get anything together. We couldn’t get any extra base hits. We couldn’t drive the ball.”
Jeff Kent singled and scored on Berkman’s double to the right-field wall. Vazquez walked Richard Hidalgo and Gregg Zaun before Adam Everett hit an RBI single to shallow left field that Joe Vitiello missed despite a belly dive.
“It was good to have that kind of inning early against a pitcher like that,” Berkman said. “You saw how he did once he settled down. We didn’t even have a loud foul after that. You have to try to get after a guy like that.”
Vazquez had won three of his last four starts and pitched two complete games in that span. After the second, Vazquez retired the next 12 batters in order before he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Vazquez wasn’t ready to leave the game.
“I don’t know what to say,” Vazquez said. “They put me out there. I could have kept going.”
Vazquez hit an RBI single in the fifth inning.
“We made some really good defensive plays,” Astros manager Jimy Williams said. “Berkman’s throw to the plate was big.”
Robinson acknowledged the frustration is increasing.
“I won’t be at the end of my rope until the last game,” he said. “I’ll keep searching and trying to get this ballclub going. The players haven’t givenup and I’m not giving up.”
Montreal has lost 12 of its last 13 road games. … Montreal’s Orlando Cabrera has been successful in 39 of his last 40 stolen base attempts. … Kent returned to the Astros’ lineup after serving a two-game suspension. … SS Everett made a crowd-pleasing grab in the second inning. He ran into shallowleft field and then made a leaping catch of a looper by Vitiello.