Berkman puts Astros in contention
The Houston Astros are finally playing like a contender in the NL Central, and Lance Berkman is a big factor.
Berkman drove in three runs to raise his major league-leading total to 78 as the Astros won for the seventh time in nine games, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-6 Thursday.
Berkman's two-run double highlighted a five-run third inning against Joe Beimel (1-3), and he added another RBI double in the fifth as the visiting Astros overcame a pair of two-run homers by Brian Giles.
''This was a good time to pick it up offensively because our rotation is a little dinged up right now,'' Berkman said. ''If there was ever a time for us to step up, it's now.''
In other games it was: Milwaukee 5, Cincinnati 4; Montreal 2, Philadelphia 1; Arizona 6, San Francisco 3; St. Louis 3, Los Angeles 2; Atlanta 5, Chicago 1; and Florida 9, New York 7.
Houston's Pedro Borbon (2-1) escaped a fifth-inning jam to get the win. The Astros, 5-1 on a road trip that ends Sunday in Pittsburgh, are 39-44, 7 1/2 games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.
''We have a good team,'' Berkman said. ''I really feel we underachieved greatly in the first half of the season. We're capable of running off a number of wins in a row, we've shown we can do that. We've got to keep it going.''
Expos 2, Phillies 1
Brad Wilkerson hit a two-out, two-run homer off Jose Mesa (2-5) in the ninth -- the first hit for visiting Montreal since the fourth inning.
Mesa relieved to start the ninth and walked Brian Schneider leading off. After Mike Mordecai sacrificed and with Jose Macias at the plate, Philadelphia tried a hidden-ball trick. Second baseman Tomas Perez tagged Schneider but umpires eventually ruled time had been called.
Joey Eischen (2-1) pitched two hitless innings, and Scott Stewart got three outs for his 11th save.
Diamondbacks 6, Giants 3
Brian Anderson (4-7) won consecutive starts for the first time since May 17 and 22 last year, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings at Phoenix to improve to 3-1 in his last four outings.
Byung-Hyun Kim got three outs for his 22nd save, helping Arizona close within 1 1/2 games of first-place Los Angeles in the NL West.
Junior Spivey went 3-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest active string in the majors.
Craig Counsell's two-run single highlighted a four-run third against Jason Schmidt (4-3).
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2
Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols hit solo homers off Kazuhisa Ishii (11-5), and rookie Travis Smith won for the first time since May 1 as St. Louis won its fourth straight.
Making his second start since being recalled from the minors June 27 following the death of Darryl Kile, Smith (2-0) allowed one run and seven hits in six-plus innings at St. Louis. Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 19th save and fifth of the homestand.
Braves 5, Cubs 1
Javy Lopez hit a tiebreaking double off Mark Prior (2-2) in the seventh inning as Atlanta won for the 13th time in 15 games and improved to 54-31, tying Seattle for the best record in the majors. Visiting Chicago has lost eight of 10.
Mike Remlinger (6-0) struck out Sammy Sosa with the bases loaded in the seventh to preserve a 1-all tie.
Marlins 9, Mets 7
After nearly wasting a 6-1 lead, Julian Tavarez (7-4) won for the sixth time in his last nine starts, allowing five runs and nine hits in six innings. Pinch-hitter Pablo Ozuna helped him with a two-run triple after visiting New York had closed to 6-5.
Al Leiter (8-7) gave up six runs -- one earned -- and eight hits in five innings, hurt by an error by third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. He began the season 8-1 against the Marlins but has lost three straight to them.
Mike Piazza hit his 18th homer, giving him three in his last two games. The Associated Press
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