HOUSTON – Lance Berkman homered twice and Craig Biggio added a solo shot as the Houston Astros rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-5 on Wednesday night.

Berkman’s first homer, a three-run shot to right-center, capped a six-run fifth inning off Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (9-7). Berkman added a solo homer to center field in the seventh for his fourth multi-homer game of the season.

The Astros came back from four runs down for the second time this season and snapped a four-game losing streak at Minute Maid Park. They also ended a four-game skid to the Reds, who’ve lost seven of their last nine road games.

Arroyo dropped to 0-4 since winning at New York on June 19. He tied a career high by giving up three homers.

Arroyo was virtually unhittable for three innings after Biggio launched his fourth pitch into the left-field seats. Biggio’s sixth leadoff homer of the season was the 50th of his career, which trails only Rickey Henderson’s 80.

Astros starter Andy Pettitte (9-10) couldn’t hold the lead long. Rich Aurilia hit his 13th homer of the season in the second, the 21st home run given up by Pettitte this year.

Aurilia led off the fourth with a single to right and Adam Dunn followed with a double off the fence in left-center.

Aurilia scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s bat-splitting single that Biggio fielded behind second base. Encarnacion’s splintered barrel spiraled into the netting behind home plate.

Brandon Phillips then lined a single to right fielder Luke Scott, who fired a long throw to third baseman Aubrey Huff trying to get Encarnacion. But the ball skipped past Huff and into the Reds’ dugout, allowing Encarnacion to score behind Dunn for a 4-1 lead.

Aurilia, just 2-for-15 against Pettitte before Wednesday, tripled off the right-field wall in the fifth and scored on Dunn’s double down the right-field line.

Pettitte left after that, but still won for the third time in five starts, despite allowing 11 hits.

Arroyo, meanwhile, retired 10 in a row after a walk to Preston Wilson in the first, struck out the side in the third and fanned Huff leading off the fourth.

But he crumbled in the fifth against the NL’s second-lowest scoring offense.

Brad Ausmus led off with a double and Arroyo hit Adam Everett with a pitch. Willy Taveras, pinch-hitting for Pettitte, beat out a grounder up the middle to load the bases before RBI singles by Biggio and Chris Burke.

Berkman, a game-time decision for manager Phil Garner because of a left groin injury, then sent his 27th homer deep to right-center. The three-run blast was Berkman’s 23rd this season batting left-handed and boosted his NL-leading RBI total to 91.

Reds manager Jerry Narron stuck with Arroyo into the seventh, but Berkman hit an 0-1 pitch an estimated 452 feet to center.

The Astros’ bullpen did the rest, allowing only two hits in the final four innings. Dan Wheeler finished for his second save.

Notes: The Astros rallied from four runs down to win for the first time since May 28, when they trailed 4-0 in Pittsburgh and won 5-4 in 10 innings. … Berkman has 18 career multi-homer games. … Pettitte picked off Ryan Freel in the first inning. Pettitte’s 76 career pickoffs ranks second among active pitchers behind Kenny Rogers’ 86. … Dunn had four hits, tying a career high. …The Astros’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in 20 1/3 innings, its longest scoreless streak of the season.

AP-ES-07-26-06 2250EDT



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