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Substitutes abound as Houston wins

HOUSTON (AP) -- Now the Astros start hitting.

A day after Houston was eliminated from playoff contention, Jeff
Bagwell homered twice and drove in four runs in a brief appearance
as the Astros beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 Sunday.

Houston spent much of the season in first place, but lost six of
its last nine games and finished behind the Chicago Cubs.

"We had a lot of players that had pretty darn good years,"
manager Jimy Williams said. "We just couldn't win here of late. I
guess you could go back and put some other games under the
microscope but I'm not going to do that. We had a bunch of guys who
just left it between the lines."

Bagwell hit a solo homer in the first inning off Luis Martinez
(0-3) and he had a three-run homer in the third inning that put
Houston ahead 4-1.

It was Bagwell's fifth multihomer game of the season and the
31st of his career. Bagwell hit 39 homers this season.

"I just look at it as another disappointing season because we
didn't win," Bagwell said. "If we'd won 102 games and needed 103,
it would be disappointing too. We're here to win and we didn't do
that so it's disappointing."

Bagwell left after the third as substitutes replaced starters
throughout the game for both teams. Lance Berkman and Jason Lane
each hit two-run homers for Houston.

With his team no longer in the chase, Williams started Kirk
Saarloos in place of Wade Miller. Milwaukee manager Ned Yost had
Martinez pitch in place of Ben Sheets.

"This is a big disappointment, but it wasn't from a lack of
effort by the guys in this clubhouse," Craig Biggio said. "I know
everybody puts the emphasis on the last week, but there are two
halves. We played well at times."

The Astros finished 87-75, winning three more games than they
did last season.

"I can't imagine myself being anywhere else but on a
championship team," said Jeff Kent, who helped San Francisco come
within a victory of last year's World Series title. "Right now,
standing here, we know it's not going to be us. It's difficult
handle."

Milwaukee was 68-94, a 12-game improvement in its first year
under Yost. Still, the Brewers have finished with a losing record
in 11 consecutive seasons.

"At about noon today, I thanked everybody for playing hard and
giving it their best effort for 162 games," Yost said. "I told
them how much I appreciated it, and how much I enjoyed being with
them."

Scott Podsednik led off the game with a double and scored on a
groundout by Peter Zoccolillo. Podsednik hit his ninth homer in the
sixth, and the rookie finished with a .314 average, 100 runs, 43
steals and 58 RBI.

He is only the fourth rookie since 1900 to hit .300, score 100
runs and steal 40 bases, joining Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Joe Jackson
(1911) and Jimmy Barrett (1900).

Podsednik is from West, which is near Waco.

"I can't put into words, to be honest, to do it in front of my
friends and family, that was really special," he said. "It's been
a dream year, and to cap it in a dream way, I don't think I could
have written it any better."

Saarloos pitched three innings and struck out his final six
batters.

Ricky Stone (6-4), the fourth of six Astros pitchers, threw a
perfect seventh inning for the victory.

Eric Bruntlett and Morgan Ensberg each singled before Bagwell's
homer.

Richard Hidalgo singled in the fourth inning prior to Berkman's
25th homer. Lane hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning.

"It's just not that easy to win it," Bagwell said. "Everybody
wants to look at the Braves and 12 years in a row. Things don't
just happen like that except for a select few. I look at it that OK
this happened, what are we going to do to fix it and go out and win
next year."

Game notes
Richie Sexson became the first player in Brewers' history
to play in every inning of every game this season. He's the first
player in the majors to gain that distinction since Travis Fryman
played in every inning of the 144 games of the shortened 1995
season.