Astros edge Nationals

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HOUSTON – Eric Bruntlett hit a sacrifice fly that scored Craig Biggio in the 12th inning Monday and lifted the Houston Astros to a 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals.

Biggio led off the inning with a double off the left-field wall and advanced on Willy Taveras’ bunt. Mike Stanton (0-1) intentionally walked Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg, who had homered off Chad Cordero in the 10th to tie the game at 4-4.

Bruntlett pinch hit for reliever Chad Qualls, hit a high fly to center fielder Brandon Watson, and Biggio crouched at third as he awaited the catch. Watson’s throw home was high and late, and Biggio easily slid in with the winning run.

Houston took three out of four from the Nationals, who play their home opener Tuesday against the New York Mets. Berkman and Preston Wilson also homered for Houston – the fourth time they’ve homered in the same game.

Washington, which trailed 3-1, went ahead 4-3 when pinch-hitter Daryle Ward hit a solo homer off Brad Lidge in the 10th.

Ensberg answered in the bottom half against Cordero with his first home run of the season. Lidge, who gave up homers to Albert Pujols in the NL championship series and Scott Podsednik in the World Series, was replaced in the 11th by Chad Qualls (1-1), who got the final six outs.

Jose Vidro had two RBI singles for the Nationals, who played the series finale without manager Frank Robinson. Bench coach Eddie Rodriguez led the team as Robinson served a one-game suspension for his role in last Thursday’s game against the New York Mets, in which five batters were hit by pitches.

Nationals starter John Patterson gave up three runs and five hits in six innings, and Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

Berkman hit his third first-inning homer of the season, and Wilson homered in the second for a 2-0 lead. Wilson also crashed into the left-field wall to catch a deep fly by Nick Johnson and Berkman leaned into the crowd to snare a foul by Matt LeCroy.

Vidro had his first RBI single in the third, and Eric Munson hit a sacrifice fly that made it 3-1 in the fourth. Byrd grounded into a run-scoring double play in the fifth, and Vidro’s single later in the inning tied it.

Notes: Berkman, a switch hitter, has hit all four of his homers from the left side. … Vice President Dick Cheney is to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals’ home opener Tuesday against the New York Mets. … The Nationals have been outscored 19-7 in the first through third innings.

AP-ES-04-10-06 1802EDT

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