HOUSTON (AP) -- Jeff Kent hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the
eighth inning as the Houston Astros held off the Tampa Bay Devil
Rays 11-8 Friday night after wasting a seven-run lead.
Houston, which moved past the Chicago Cubs into first place in
the NL Central for the first time since April 15, led 7-0 after two
innings, then fell behind 8-7 when Marlon Anderson hit an RBI
double off Octavio Dotel (5-1) in the eighth.
The hit scored Julio Lugo, released from the Astros on May 9
after being charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly
attacking his wife. Lugo was booed time he came to the plate and
went 1-for-5. It would have been the biggest comeback win in the history of
the Devil Rays, who started play in 1998, but Travis Harper (0-4)
couldn't hold the lead. Houston loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the
eighth on singles by Orlando Merced and Morgan Ensberg, and a walk
to Jeff Bagwell. Kent singled for a 9-7 lead, and Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella
was ejected by plate umpire Matt Hollowell for arguing a call at
the plate. Piniella spent several seconds kicking dirt on the
plate. Mike Venafro relieved and threw a run-scoring wild pitch on his
first pitch. One out later, Geoff Blum batted for Dotel and singled
home another run. Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 18 chances. Tampa starter Nick Bierbrodt left after failing to get any outs
in the second, the shortest outing of his career. He allowed seven
runs, four hits and five walks. Houston starter Jeriome Robertson allowed three runs and five
hits in 3 2-3 innings. The Astros scored six runs in the first on Ensberg's two-run
homer, Lance Berkman's RBI grounder and Adam Everett's three-run
homer. Berkman added a sacrifice fly in the second. Travis Lee's three-run homer in the fourth started the comeback.
Anderson hit a solo homer in the fifth, Jared Sandberg had a
two-run homer in the sixth and Tampa Bay tied it in the seventh
when Ensberg allowed Travis Lee's infield pop in front of the plate
to drop, for an error. The pop scored Rocco Baldelli, who reached
base on a Brad Lidge wild pitch as he struck out.NOTES Berkman's single in the fifth stretched his hitting streak
to 13 games ... Bagwell hasn't homered in 114 at-bats since May 5,
when he hit his 11th against Pittsburgh and took the NL lead.