posted on Sep, 6 2004 @ 12:19 PM
Mike Lamb has suddenly become a powerful part of the Houston Astros' lineup.
Lamb went 4-for-5, including his career-high 10th homer, and drove in four runs to lead the Astros to their ninth straight win with a 10-5 victory
over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
"I've been steroid tested, so I can't use that as an explanation," Lamb quipped. "I don't know if I can explain it. I'm just comfortable with the
stadium and comfortable with the team. I'm a different player now than I was before. I'm older and more mature. That's the only thing I know."
Lamb has started the last eight games in place of the injured Morgan Ensberg and has hit .353 - 12-for-34 - in that span. He has 10 homers and 47 RBIs
this year after entering the season with 19 homers and 117 RBIs in parts of five seasons with Texas and the Astros.
"The last time I saw him before this year was the first season he played," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I thought he'd be a good hitter then, but
I didn't see him for a few years and I don't know what happened.
"Maybe he's just found a home. Maybe he's comfortable here."
Carlos Beltran added three hits as the Astros moved within 1 1/2 games of San Francisco and idle Chicago for the NL wild-card lead. Houston has won 12
of 13 and 17 of 20 and is on its longest winning streak since the Astros won a franchise-record 12 straight Sept. 3-14, 1999.
"This is what we were expecting to do in the beginning," Beltran said. "A month ago, things weren't going our way. But they are now and we just need
to keep advancing in the wild-card race."
Pete Munro (4-5) allowed five runs and four hits in five innings. Chad Qualls, Mike Gallo and Dan Wheeler finished up with four scoreless innings of
Pirates starter Kip Wells left in the first inning with tightness in his right elbow. Wells, making his first start since going on the disabled list
Aug. 23 with inflammation of the elbow, threw only 13 pitches and left after the second hitter, Beltran, singled.
John Van Benschoten (0-3) relieved him and allowed six runs - four earned - and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings. He walked five, threw one wild pitch and
struck out one.
Things can't go much worse for the Pirates, who have lost four straight and 14 of their last 19.
"It happens to every team," manager Lloyd McClendon said of the blowout. "It even happens to teams with $150 million payrolls. This was just one of
those days when everything went wrong. I couldn't even get thrown out of the game. Did I try? I had a discussion with everybody out there."
The Pirates jumped on Munro for three runs in the first. Rob Mackowiak had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, and Jason Bay followed with a two-run
After Wells left with Beltran on in the bottom of the first, Jeff Bagwell walked and Lance Berkman singled. Lamb then hit a two-run single off Van
Benschoten to make it 3-2.
"I figured I was going to go in later in the game," Van Benschoten said. "But when they called on me, I had to do what the situation called for. It
didn't bother me. I warmed up normally. There were just a lot more people watching me warm up."
Craig Biggio tied it in the second with an RBI single.
The Astros scored four runs in the third to take the lead for good. Berkman led off with a double and scored on Jeff Kent's double. Kent went to third
on Lamb's single and came home on Jose Vizcaino's sacrifice fly for a 5-3 lead.
Houston then loaded the bases with the help of a walk and a fielding error by third baseman Ty Wigginton. Van Benschoten then walked Beltran to force
in a run and threw a wild pitch to score another as Houston took a 7-3 lead.
Reliever Nelson Figueroa grounded into fielder's choice to score a run in the fourth, and Jason Kendall's sacrifice fly to center made it 7-5.
Lamb's two-run homer made it 9-5 in the sixth. Bagwell had an RBI in the seventh for the final run.