Vizcaino wins game with late home run

HOUSTON -- Astros manager Jimy Williams expects a lot from
Jose Vizcaino, and he's come through with clutch hits in two of the
last three games.

Vizcaino hit a game-ending homer with one out in the bottom of
the ninth inning to send Houston Astros to its seventh straight victory,
2-1 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

"He's always prepared. We always get the best out of him every
time he plays, his best at-bats, his best fielding, his best
everything. He's the ultimate pro," Williams said.

Vizcaino hit the first pitch he saw from Sean Lowe (1-2) over
the right-field fence to extend Houston's longest winning streak in
three seasons. The Astros won a team-record 12 in a row in
September 1999.

Vizcaino, who has started 12 games this season, hit a two-run
single in the eighth inning Thursday night to put the Astros ahead.

"I'm just happy every time Jimy gives me an opportunity to
play. He uses the bench more than most guys, and we just try to do
our job when we get in there," Vizcaino said.

"It's not really that hard to come off the bench. I've been
playing that way for four years and I'm always mentally prepared.
This year I know that I am going to get to go out there once or
twice a week and that helps a lot," he added.

Vizcaino hit his first homer since June 15 and just his second
since June 4, 1999.

"I knew I put a good hit on it. I knew I hit it hard enough to
go. I'm not a home run hitter but I can hit one occasionally,"
Vizcaino said.

The Pirates lost their fourth straight and sixth in the last
seven games. They also dropped to 2-10 in their last 12 games on
the road.

"It was just a first-pitch breaking ball, I was trying to get
ahead in the count. I don't think it was up, but it was over the
middle of the plate," Lowe said. "I didn't think he would hit a
home run, but he took care of it. Bad things are going on for us."

Octavio Dotel (2-1) pitched two hitless innings for the win.

Tim Redding didn't figure in the decision but had his fourth
straight quality start. He allowed one run and four hits in seven
innings. He tied his career high with eight strikeouts and retired
the last eight batters he faced.

Kris Benson, the No. 1 player taken in the 1996 draft, also took
a no-decision in his second start in 19 months. He allowed one run
and six hits in seven innings.

"My stuff was good and I came into the game feeling good. This
was my best outing in almost two years. It's a big relief to know I
can pitch well up here," Benson said.

Jeff Bagwell drove in Houston's first run with a sacrifice fly
in the first inning that scored Julio Lugo.

Center fielder Lance Berkman made a crucial defensive play with
a circus catch in the second inning. He ran up the steep incline of
Tal's Hill in deep center field and caught a long fly by Armando
Rios falling backward. The crowd cheered for nearly a minute and a
half as replays showed the acrobatic catch.

Later that inning, Jack Wilson's RBI single tied the score at

Game notes
Houston's Orlando Merced left in the second inning after
reaggravating his right hamstring running on a double, an injury he
originally sustained May 8 at Philadelphia. He is day-to-day. He
was replaced in right field by Richard Hidalgo. ... The Astros
(21-21) are at .500 for the first time since they were 7-7 on April
17. ... The Pirates have had only nine walks in the last six games
and their season total of 118 is the lowest in the NL. ...
Pittsburgh is 2-15 at Astros Field. ... The Pirates placed OF
Armando Rios on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left knee
and recalled INF Abraham Nunez from Triple-A Nashville.