Delgado leads five-run, eighth-inning charge

MIAMI (AP) -- Mike Lowell stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the score tied in the eighth inning, relishing the opportunity despite his .190 batting average and four-game hitless streak.

"I like that situation," Lowell said. "I'm not afraid to mess up. What's the worst that can happen -- I pop up? Well, I've been popping up all year."

This time, Lowell pulled the first pitch from Chad Qualls for a two-run double, the biggest hit in a five-run eighth that helped the Florida Marlins rally past the Houston Astros 6-2 on Tuesday night.

Florida trailed 2-1 entering the inning, but Carlos Delgado tied the score with his fourth home run. That ended reliever Russ Springer's streak of 9 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over 10 outings.

Miguel Cabrera reached on an infield single, and Paul Lo Duca
hit a broken-bat double. Jeff Conine was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Springer (0-2) departed.

Then Lowell snapped an 0-for-11 skid. The RBI were just his second and third in the past 16 games.

"It's got to give him a boost," manager Jack McKeon said. "I'm so happy for him. He has been almost killing himself and dying inside."

Lowell was struggling so badly that with a runner on second and none out in the seventh, he bunted on his own for the first sacrifice of his career.

There was no thought of bunting in the eighth. Instead he drove a sinker from Qualls off the scoreboard.

"I'm trying to get a groundball," Qualls said. "For him to put it off the wall, it was kind of shocking."

Also vital for Florida was the homer by Delgado. He pulled a 94 mph fastball barely foul before hitting a curve the opposite way over the scoreboard two pitches later.

"One of the best at-bats you're ever going to see," Conine said.

After Lowell put Florida ahead, Alex Gonzalez singled home a run to make it 5-2. Juan Encarnacion became the seventh consecutive Marlins hitter to reach when his bloop single scored another run.

Jim Mecir (1-0), one of five pitchers to combine on a seven-hitter, threw a 1-2-3 eighth.

The Astros fell to 2-15 on the road, including losses in 12 of their past 13 games. Overall they've lost seven of eight.

Houston, last in the NL in hits and home runs, has scored just five runs in the past four games.

"When we have these kinds of games and we do have the lead, we need to hold it," manager Phil Garner said.

Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro put the Astros ahead 2-1 with a run-scoring single in the seventh. That gave him three RBI in the series and four this season.

Willy Taveras hit his second homer for the Astros, who came into the game with 18 home runs, fewest in the major leagues. Houston's Brandon Backe pitched six innings and allowed three hits and one run -- Lo Duca's second homer of the year.

Florida's Brian Moehler pitched six innings and allowed just four hits and one run, dropping his ERA to 2.05. The start was his first since April 24, but McKeon said he won't skip Moehler's turn next time.

"He knows how to pitch," McKeon said.

Game notes
Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo said after the game that he'll probably remain sidelined by a thigh strain until at least Monday. ... Houston shortstop Adam Everett singled in the fifth to end an 0-for-14 skid. ... Backe lowered his road ERA from 9.72 to 7.54 in four starts. ... Moehler beat out a bunt for his first major-league hit in 37 at-bats. "Thirty years from now, it's going to be a line drive," he joked. ... Marlins left-hander Dontrelle Willis pinch-hit and grounded into a double play to end Florida's eighth-inning rally.