Berkman smacks 23rd homer in victory

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jared Fernandez took advantage of an unusually
long break between starts.

Fernandez allowed one run in six solid innings to break his
three-game losing streak as the Houston Astros beat the San Diego
Padres 11-6 Saturday night.

"The extra time off really helped me," Fernandez said after
being skipped in the rotation because of Monday's off day. "During
that 10 days, Burt (pitching coach Hooton) worked with me a lot. We
worked on my curve, my slider, my mechanics, where I get on the
mound, everything. We talked about getting used to the major

"At first, I thought taking that long off would be bad, but it
turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me."

Fernandez (2-3) gave up five hits, striking out two and walking

Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg homered, and the Astros used
four pitchers in the Padres' five-run seventh inning but held on
and maintained a first-place tie with St. Louis in the NL Central.

Billy Wagner pitched 1 1-3 innings for his 36th save in 39

Kevin Jarvis (4-7) lasted 5 1-3 innings and allowed seven runs
on seven hits and three walks as he lost his fifth straight

"Baseball's a game that goes in cycles," Jarvis said. "I've
got to ride this one out and hopefully it'll end soon."

The Astros scored four in the second inning. Brad Ausmus hit an
RBI single to make it 1-0. With the bases loaded one out later,
Fernandez hit a dribbler to the mound that Jarvis tossed to home
for one out.

But catcher Miguel Ojeda's throw to first trying for the double
play was wild for an error and Ensberg scored on the play. Craig
Biggio and Jose Vizcaino followed with RBI singles for a 4-0 lead.

After Berkman's homer in the third -- a leadoff shot for his 23rd
of the season -- the Padres got on the board in the fourth on Ryan
Klesko's RBI single.

Berkman made two outstanding defensive plays to prevent
extra-base hits in both the third and fourth innings. In the third,
he made a leaping catch against the wall on a drive hit by Mark
Loretta. Berkman then got the last out of the fourth with an almost
identical leaping catch at the wall to rob Miguel Ojeda.

In the sixth, Ensberg hit his 20th home run and Vizcaino added
an RBI single for a 7-1 lead.

Reliever Brad Lidge started the seventh and loaded the bases
before allowing Ojeda to score on a wild pitch. Sean Burroughs
followed with an RBI single.

Lidge left without registering an out and Dan Miceli came on.
Loretta singled in a run and, one out later, Phil Nevin hit an RBI

Reliever Mike Gallo gave up a sacrifice fly to Klesko that made
it 7-6. Octavio Dotel relieved and struck out pinch-hitter Brian

In the eighth, Astros manager Jimy Williams was ejected for
arguing a call at second base when Padres second baseman Mark
Loretta dropped the ball trying to turn a double play. Second base
umpire Angel Hernandez said Loretta held the ball long enough for
the out but Williams disagreed and said the same thing happened to
him against the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS when he managed the Boston
Red Sox.

"The man didn't have the ball," Williams said. "The third
base umpire has to step up and do something. If he's a part of a
team (of umpires), he has to help.

"I'm going to have to pay a fine now, right? My kids needed
some new shoes and they're not going to get them because of this."

The Astros scored four in the eighth led by Richard Hidalgo's
two-run single. The Padres used four pitchers in the eighth,
including Jay Witasick and Mike Matthews -- who each walked in runs.

"We just melted down there in the eighth," Padres manager
Bruce Bochy said. "We got back in the game and we fought hard to
do it. But we just had trouble throwing strikes in the eighth."
^Notes:@ Astros 2B Jeff Kent was out of the lineup for the third
straight game to be with his wife in Austin after she delivered
their fourth child Friday. Jose Vizcaino replaced him for the third
straight game. ... Brian Giles extended his hitting streak to 11
games with a single in the first. ... The Padres are 10-4 all-time
at Minute Maid Park. ... Wagner got his first major league RBI and
his first major league walk.