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Updated: Friday, April 11, 2003 1:21 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Cincinnati Reds
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
2 5 3
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
4 7 1
W Robertson (1-1)
L Graves (0-1)
S Wagner (3)
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HOUSTON 4, CINCINNATI 2
 

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Craig Biggio broke the National League record with his 31st career leadoff homer and rookie Jeriome Robertson picked up his first major league win as the Houston Astros posted a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds .

Biggio drove a 1-1 pitch from Danny Graves (0-1) over the fence in left-center field to spark a three-run first inning.

He eclipsed the mark established by Bobby Bonds with his 197th home run overall.

"I didn't know it was a record when it happened," Biggio said. "I knew I was close after last year, but I wasn't thinking about it. It's not like I set that as my goal. I'm in pretty good company with Bobby Bonds and that's a nice feeling."

Bonds recorded 30 of his 35 career leadoff homers in the NL.

Robertson (1-1) yielded a run and two hits in seven innings. The lefthander struck out a career-high eight and walked three as the Astros took the rubber game of the three-game series.

"(Astros closer Billy Wagner ) gave me the ball after the game, it definitely means something," Robertson said. "I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible. I'm probably going to send t he ball to my grandpa because he's been my coach over the years."

The 26-year-old Robertson appeared to get stronger as the game went along, retiring the final 11 batters he faced before being replaced by Octavio Dotel to start the eighth.

"He pitched an outstanding game," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "He used all of his pitches and changed speeds. I thought (catcher Gregg) Zaun did a nice job behind the plate guiding him through the game. He (Robertson) is not a kid who panics. He has a good mound presence out there."

Sean Casey had two singles and an RBI and Barry Larkin tripled and scored a run, but the Reds lost for the third time in five games.

The Reds combined for just five hits as their offensive struggles continued. They are batting just .205 (60-for-293) over their first eight games.

"Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "That's what this game is all about. They (the Astros) had some pretty good pitchers out there. They get paid to get guys out."

After Biggio's homer in the first, Geoff Blum singled to right-center field.

There were two outs when Jeff Kent plated Blum with a double to deep left-center field. Richard Hidalgo followed with a single to center field, driving in Kent to make it 3-0.

"It was the same problem that I had all of spring training," Graves said of falling behind early. "I couldn't find a way to get going early. I was just fighting myself and that first inning is what beat us. It took about 20-30 pitches to settle me down."

Hidalgo is the lone Houston player to hit safely in the first eight games of the season.

"I just want to try to keep it going and do my best," Hidalgo said. "I'm trying to look for certain pitches and be aggressive. I'm starting to get my old feeling back."

Casey singled home a run in the fourth to pull the Reds within 3-1. But Zaun answered in the fifth, driving in Lance Berkman with a single to right field and restoring the Astros' three-run cushion.

Cincinnati tried to mount a comeback in the ninth. Wagner replaced Dotel to start the frame and Larkin greeted him with a leadoff triple.

There was one out when Austin Kearns reached on an infield single, plating Larkin and slicing Cincinnati's deficit to 4-2. Casey followed with a single putting the tying run aboard, but Jose Guillen popped out and Ruben Mateo struck out swinging to end the game.

"The bottom line obviously is that you have to hit to win and we're not doing that," Casey said. "We're only nine games into the year, so hopefully we're going to get it going sooner or later, but we didn't have too many opportunities tonight."

Wagner's save was his third of the season.


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