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Bats recover for twinbill split
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09/09/2004 11:35 PM ET 
Bats recover for twinbill split
Alfaro marks child's birth with first Major League hit

Dan Miceli struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning on Thursday. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

PITTSBURGH -- The Houston Astros recovered from a momentary lapse of scoring to win the second game of Thursday's doubleheader, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-2, before 10,495 at PNC Park.

The win came on the heels of a 3-1 loss during which Bucs left-hander Oliver Perez scattered three hits over eight innings while fanning 14. That loss halted a club-record-tying 12-game winning streak, but the win in the nightcap allowed the Astros to move back into a first-place tie with the Giants in the National League Wild Card standings, one-half game ahead of the Cubs.

"Aside from the fact that we want to win every [game] we can, you don't want to let these guys [Pirates] start feeling good about playing you," manager Phil Garner said. "You want to come back. The win's important to us because we're in a pennant race.

"The second thing is, we want to keep driving, and when I say 'keep driving,' that means keep winning. It's easy to feel a little tired, and it's very important to get back out there and stop it."

Tim Redding, making his first big league start since July 29, allowed plenty of baserunners but kept the Pirates' scoring to a minimum during his 4 2/3 innings of work. The only damage was Daryle Ward's two-run homer in the fourth, which cut the Astros' lead to 4-2.

Redding recorded two quick outs in the fifth, but after a walk to Tike Redman and a base hit by Jack Wilson, Garner turned to lefty Mike Gallo to record the final out.

Redding, who was making a spot start after his promotion from Triple-A on Tuesday, was ineligible for the win, which would have been his first since July 24. Instead, the victory went to Gallo (1-0), who induced a groundout from Rob Mackowiak in the fifth and another from left-handed hitting Ward to lead off the sixth.

"I'd have loved to seen [Redding] finish the inning," Garner said. "My concern was to get to the left-handers. He'd gotten down on the left-handers, and I didn't want them to get their heads back in the game at that point. Try to stop it right there. He may have very well pitched out of it, but we've got a full bullpen so that's what I decided to do."

Redding understood Garner's rationale, especially considering he allowed seven baserunners over the course of 4 2/3 innings, which helped his pitch count balloon to 84.

"With a three-run lead from the forth inning on, I really got behind," Redding said. "The pitch count really ran up. A couple two-out walks and a hit, and I really lost control of what I was doing with the ball.

"I wasn't getting ahead with my breaking ball for first-pitch strikes. That helped run up my pitch count really quick because I was already 1-0 and I have to come back with something else and it's 2-0."

The win was Gallo's first decision in 61 appearances this year and the second win of his big league career.

"I didn't realize it was the bottom of the fifth inning," Gallo said. "I've come in that situation before, and I didn't get the win. They'd give it to somebody who maybe threw two innings. I know I came in with runners on first and second in that situation and Mackowiak was the tying run. That's a big part of the game right there, and hey, I'll take it."

The offense sprung to life, as it has for most of the last three weeks. Jose Vizcaino and Brad Ausmus belted RBI doubles in the second to give the Astros a 2-0 lead, and they cushioned their advantage in the next frame when Josh Fogg (9-10) balked with the bases loaded, which was followed by Mike Lamb's RBI groundout.

"We've been really swinging the bats well," Garner said. "The guy [Perez] shut us down in the first game. We came out in the second game, and got a two-out base hit to drive in a run, and little things like that helps keep the pressure on."

In his first big league at-bat, Jason Alfaro connected on the first pitch he saw for a base hit into right-center off Fogg in the seventh. Alfaro, who learned earlier in the day that his wife had given birth to a son, advanced to third on Orlando Palmeiro's double and scored on a fielder's choice grounder by Bagwell. Berkman's double scored two more to give the Astros an 8-2 lead.

Dan Miceli was activated from the disabled list prior to Thursday's games and pitched a scoreless ninth, his first appearance since Aug. 21. Miceli, who recently recovered from a severe case of pink eye, yielded a leadoff double to Jason Bay but recorded three consecutive outs to end the game.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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