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DeRosa hits two-run, pinch-hit homer in ninth

5/2/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- Mark DeRosa failed to get a bunt down in the
ninth inning. The Atlanta Braves aren't complaining.

After fouling off a bunt attempt, DeRosa came through with a
two-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning, and the Atlanta
Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros with an
8-7 victory Thursday night.

DeRosa was supposed to bunt Javy Lopez to second base against
Astros closer Billy Wagner.

"I didn't do the job I was sent up there to do," DeRosa said.
"I wasn't looking forward to bunting a 98 mph fastball. When I
tried to bunt, he threw so hard, it just reverberated the bat."

When the count got to 3-2, DeRosa started looking for a
fastball, and that's what he got.

"If he had thrown me anything else, I would have screwed myself
into the ground when I swung," DeRosa said. "I got good wood on
it but when a guy throws as hard as he does, you don't have to hit
it hard."

It was DeRosa's first homer of the season and his first career
pinch-hit homer.

Andruw Jones also hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who have
won five in a row, seven straight on the road and 14 of 16 overall
following a 4-8 start.

"DeRosa hasn't had a chance to play much this year, but he was
a .300 hitter last year so it didn't surprise me that he got a
hit," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Lance Berkman, breaking out of a season-long slump, tied a
career high with six RBIs for Houston, including a three-run homer
off former Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds in the first inning.

"I contributed more tonight than the entire month of April,"
Berkman said. "I'm not going to get too excited because that's my
job. I felt better at the plate tonight obviously, but the main
story is this was a tough loss."

Lopez singled off Wagner (1-2) to open the ninth. DeRosa,
batting for reliever Roberto Hernandez, then connected for his
first career pinch-hit homer.

Hernandez (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win, and
John Smoltz worked the ninth for his 11th save in as many tries and
27th in a row dating to last season. The Braves won their 62nd
straight game in which Smoltz has pitched.

"I wasn't at my best, but I felt so strong it was scary,"
Smoltz said. "My pitches were more aggressive than I wanted them
to be. My fastball was absolutely live. My splitter was probably
too hard. I just want to keep it going as long as possible."

Berkman's RBI single in the ninth cut it to 8-7, but Smoltz
retired Richard Hidalgo and got Jose Vizcaino to ground into a
game-ending double play with runners at the corners.

Berkman also had an RBI single in the sixth and his double to
right in the seventh off Hernandez tied it at 6. Berkman also had
six RBIs on June 14, 2001, at Minnesota. He led the NL with 128
RBIs last season but entered the game with only four this season.

With the score tied at 5, Gary Sheffield hit a 2-2 pitch from
Octavio Dotel with two outs in the seventh inning for his ninth
homer and a 6-5 Atlanta lead.

Sheffield hit .666 (8-for-12) in the three-game series and had
seven RBIs and two home runs. He was 3-for-5 Thursday night with
two RBI.

"We've got our offense going," Sheffield said. "We got off to
a slow start but now we are picking up. When our offense gets going
we are going to score six or seven runs a game, and with our
pitching we're going to be tough to beat."

Reynolds spent his entire 14-year career in the Astros
organization before he was released March 27.

With the game tied at 4, Rafael Furcal doubled to start the
fifth against Jeriome Robertson and scored the go-ahead run on an
RBI single by Sheffield off Pete Munro.

Reynolds' bid to beat the Astros ended in the sixth when Berkman
hit an RBI single for a 5-5 tie. Reynolds allowed eight hits and
five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

He retired his first two batters before Jeff Bagwell singled,
Jeff Kent doubled and Berkman hit a 3-2 pitch over the center-field
fence for his third homer of the season. Kent had an RBI single in
the third inning.

"As far as me, no I'm not satisfied at all," Reynolds said.
"It's like I'm in a rut and I've only made four starts. I did keep
my team in the game after the first inning and gave them a chance
to win the ballgame."

Furcal's RBI single in the third gave Atlanta its first run, and
the Braves tied it at 4 in the fourth on Jones' two-run homer and
an RBI single by Vinny Castilla.

Robertson pitched 4 1-3 innings, allowing seven hits and five
runs.

Game notes
Reynolds had a 103-86 record and 3.95 ERA in his 10-year
big league career with the Astros. ... Sheffield is hitting .519
(27-for-52) on the road this season. ... Vizcaino started at
shortstop in place of Julio Lugo, designated for assignment after
he was charged with punching his wife in the face and slamming her
head on the hood of a car.

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