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Archive for Saturday, July 8, 2000

Astros rip Royals

July 8, 2000

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— Too bad Scott Elarton can't start every game for the Houston Astros. He's the only winning pitcher they've had since June 18.

Elarton won his fourth straight decision and the Astros stopped their six-game home losing streak, defeating the Kansas City Royals 9-5 Friday night.






When: 7:05 tonight.Where: Enron Field.Television: Channel 29 (cable channel 17).Pitchers: Mac Suzuki (3-3) v. Greg Miller (0-0).KC Record: 38-45 (16 back).

The Astros have won only four of their last 17 games overall, and Elarton (8-3) has been the winning pitcher in each of those victories. The last time another pitcher won a game was reliever Jay Powell on June 18 against San Francisco.

"This is a relief," Elarton said. "Now I can go into the (All-Star) break, rest my arm and come back for the second half. I didn't feel good at the start. I didn't have rhythm. Finally, I got my rhythm about the fifth inning."

Elarton gave up four hits in 71/3 innings and struck out eight. He left in the eighth, when three Astros errors led to four unearned runs, two of them coming on Mark Quinn's single.

"He shut us down for the first seven innings except for the home run," Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney said. "We couldn't do much against him. "He mixed his pitches real well. He had four pitches and he threw them all for strikes."

Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Mitch Meluskey homered as Houston ended its longest home losing skid since a seven-game slide in 1995.

Elarton, 5-0 at home this season, didn't allow a hit until Jorge Fabregas homered with one out in the fifth.

"He doesn't walk many guys and he uses both sides of the plate," Bagwell said. "He mixes the ball in and out which is what you have to do anywhere. He's not afraid to pitch here. He does that every time."

Biggio hit a two-run homer in the third off Blake Stein (0-1). Stein's wild pitch made it 3-0 later in the inning.

Bagwell added a three-run homer, his 23rd, in the fifth. Meluskey hit a solo homer in the sixth.

There have been 135 homers at Enron Field this season compared with 118 for the entire season in the Astrodome last season.

Biggio and Richard Hidalgo had RBI hits in the seventh.

"He's been a success throughout his career and that's why we feel he can be a No. 1 pitcher down the road," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "If he doesn't have any setbacks he'll be fine."

Stein made his appearance in the majors this season and pitched five innings. He missed the first half of the season with a fractured right forearm after being hit by a batted ball in a simulated spring training game Feb. 29.

He won his last three minor league tuneup assignments.

"I had no problems physically or mentally," Stein said. "My stuff was there. I just elevated a few pitches and they took advantage. What I need to work on is staying down."

Stein retired the first eight batters of the game before Elarton singled in the third. Julio Lugo hit an RBI double and Biggio followed with his fifth homer.

"That's the best breaking ball I've seen him have," Royals manager Tony Muser said of Stein. "He made some mistakes up in the zone. The home run balls hurt. There was some good and some bad. He didn't pitch well enough to win."

Notes: Royals shortstop Rey Sanchez holds the team record for consecutive errorless games at 59. ... The Astros lead the interleague series 7-3. ... The Royals are 33-13 this year when they score five or more runs. They are 5-32 when the score four or fewer runs. ... The Astros have a 29-22 overall record in interleague play. ... Elarton is 3-0 in seven starts against the AL.

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