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Saarloos, Borbon combine to blank Reds, 1-0

HOUSTON -- Pedro Borbon wouldn't mind finishing more games.

Borbon struck out three batters in the ninth and got his first save since Aug. 20, 2000, when he was with Toronto as the Houston Astros defeated the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 Sunday.

''It was a good feeling,'' Borbon said. ''I had my adrenaline pumping with the crowd standing for the last out. That was a lot of fun.

''I see now why a lot of guys like to close. The most exciting thing is to get those last three outs.''

Rookie Kirk Saarloos (6-3) allowed four hits in seven innings. He struck out five and walked two, winning for the first time in three decisions since Aug. 10.

Borbon usually faces left-handers, who have a .247 batting average against him, and normally pitches in the middle innings, often facing only one or two batters. But the Reds lineup, laced heavily with left-handers, allowed him to stay in for two innings Sunday.

Borbon gave up a double Austin Kearns and struck out lefties Ken Griffey, Adam Dunn and Sean Casey in the ninth for the save. But he doesn't think he's going to take the job of closer Billy Wagner, who wasn't available Sunday because he pitched in the last two games.

''I'm not a closer,'' Borbon said. ''I'll take any opportunity I can get. But everyone knows I'm not that kind of pitcher. They just had several lefties in there. I was thinking Dunn was due against me. He's a great hitter who can change a game any time.

''The crowd really pumped me up. You hear those cheers occasionally as a middle-reliever but there's nothing like being a closer.''

It was the eighth shutout of the season for the Astros, all at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

''If somebody had told me we'd have eight shutouts and all of them here I wouldn't have believed it,'' manager Jimy Williams said. ''So it's not the park.''

Lance Berkman hit his 35th home run of the season, a career high, but said the number isn't that special.

''I guess a career high would mean more if I was in my seventh year or something,'' Berkman said. ''But I've just been playing fulltime for two years, so it's not that big a deal.

''They are just numbers anyway. Helping the team win is the name of the game. On a day like today when the home run turns out to be huge, hitting one is much more important. A career high home run doesn't mean as much as one like this.''

Except for the home run, Ryan Dempster (7-13) was very effective. He allowed only two hits and four walks in seven innings. After the homer, Dempster allowed only one hit, a fifth-inning double by Craig Biggio.

''It's always frustrating,'' said Dempster, who is 2-5 in nine starts since Cincinnati acquired him from Florida on July 11. ''When you lose 1-0 and we're in the heat of something here, it's tough. We need to win games and regardless of how you lose, anything hurts right now. We're just going to scratch and claw our way and try to win as many as we can.''

It was pretty frustrating for the Reds as well, as they fell eight games off the pace in the NL Central in losing for the seventh time in the last 10 games.

''When Dempster pitches the way he did,'' Aaron Boone said, ''it's a game we've got to win.''

Notes: Jeff Bagwell was 0-for-3, ending his 15-game hitting streak. … The Astros used a shift every time Ken Griffey Jr. batted. It resulted in SS Adam Everett making two assists, including the start of one double play, on grounders to the right of second base. One double play was 6-5-3, with 3B Geoff Blum covering second … It was the seventh shutout for the Astros pitching staff, all at Minute Maid Park. The Associated Press