Astros 7, Rangers 5

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HOUSTON (AP)—Clapping his hands as he rounded the bases in a slow trot, Morgan Ensberg felt the weight of three frustrating months quickly fade away.

Ensberg had just hit a two-run homer, his first of the season, to lead the Houston Astros over the Texas Rangers 7-5 Friday night. Whatever anger, exasperation or other emotions he’d felt during those months didn’t matter anymore.

The home run ended the longest drought of his career and could’ve been the kind of spark the punchless Astros needed.

“I felt like I got a 400-pound gorilla off my back,” said Ensberg, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. “But also I was happy about the timing. It was a combination of everything.”

Carlos Beltran had an RBI in his home debut for Houston, and Roy Oswalt earned his 50th career win. Lance Berkman singled in a run and snatched away Alfonso Soriano’s bid for a homer in the fourth with a terrific leaping catch.

Ensberg’s shot to left off Carlos Almanzar (6-1), which almost sailed out of the park, was his first home run since Sept. 27. It ended a curious drought for a player who set an Astros record for third basemen with 25 home runs last season.

Texas’ David Dellucci hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth to tie the game at 5.

Ensberg responded with his first home run in 213 at-bats, and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in seven chances.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Astros manager Jimy Williams said. “Ensberg got the big hit. I’m glad the first one came tonight.”

Houston won without much help from its new star center fielder, Beltran, who carried the team offensively during a six-game road trip to Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Beltran, acquired in a trade with Kansas City last week, got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 41,897 before his first at-bat.

He drove in the Astros’ first run on a first-inning groundout, but his career-high 15-game hitting streak was snapped. Beltran went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

“Tonight wasn’t my night,” Beltran said. “All I want to do is help this team win. In Kansas City, we were out of the race. But here, every game means something.”

The Astros scored more than five runs for only the fourth time in the past 30 games. The offensive slump has helped drop Houston all the way into fifth place in the NL Central, a big disappointment for a team with World Series hopes.

“Maybe this will be something that will spark us,” Lidge said. “I hope this game was a turning point. All we need is for some guys like (Ensberg) to break out.”

Oswalt (7-6) did enough to win his third straight start but looked nothing like the pitcher who threw eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Rangers on Sunday.

The right-hander, named NL co-player of the week last week, allowed five runs and eight hits in eight innings. He had a season-high 11 strikeouts and did not walk a batter.

Oswalt gave up a two-run homer to Mark Teixeira in the first, but things really got tough for him in the fourth.

Berkman prevented a leadoff homer by Soriano, reaching high over the fence to snag the ball. But Oswalt gave up four straight singles, and the final one by Rod Barajas drove in a run and loaded the bases.

Oswalt got out of the jam, however, by striking out Jason Conti and Ryan Drese.

“I think he’s one of the best pitchers we’ve faced this year,” said Dellucci, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “If there’s a guy out there better than him, we don’t want to face him.”

Drese, who gave up only one run in nine innings in Sunday’s loss to Houston, started out strong but fizzled in the sixth.

The right-hander had retired 11 in a row before the Astros finally chased him by scoring four runs for a 5-3 lead.

Jose Vizcaino had an RBI double, and the Astros got run-scoring singles from Berkman, Ensberg and Raul Chavez.

“He’s got the seventh-best ERA (3.62) in the league, but Ryan’s had two or three points this season when he gets into spots like that and he can’t stemthe tide,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.


The Astros earned just their second win of the season when trailing after seven innings. … The Astros had their 14th sellout of the season, more than double the six they had in 2003. … Oswalt has gone 27 consecutiveinnings without a walk.

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