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Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2003 7:30 PM EDT
MLB RECAP
Montreal Expos
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
2 5 0
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
8 9 0
W Villone (4-2)
L Downs (0-1)
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HOUSTON 8, MONTREAL 2
 

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The conditions were perfect for Ron Villone to bounce back from his worst outing of the year.

Villone yielded four hits in 6 1/3 innings and the Houston Astros belted four solo homers en route to an 8-2 victory over the Montreal Expos .

After giving up more than three runs in a game for the first time this season, Villone (4-2) allowed two runs, struck out five and walked one. He gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings in a loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday.

"The main difference today from my last start was that I threw more strikes," the 33-year-old lefthander said. "I just went out there and took an aggressive approach and things went my way, fortunately. I think any pitcher likes to face aggressive teams. If guys like to swing at the first couple of pitches, you can get ahead and then go after them with some other pitches."

Astros manager Jimy Williams was pleased with his starter's performance.

"He has kept us in the game every time he's started, except for once, and that is all you can ask for," Williams said. "His pitches must have really been moving out there because they were taking a lot of pitches for strikes. They are a real aggressive team and they swing at a lot of pitches. He's been a lift for us this year, that is for sure."

Brad Lidge and Dan Miceli combined to pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none.

The Astros pounced on Scott Downs (0-1) from the start as all nine batters reached base in the first inning. Jeff Bagwell drove in two runs with a double and scored when Downs balked.

Richardo Hidalgo and Brad Ausmus each belted solo homers in the third, giving Houston a 5-0 advantage. Ausmus notched his first homer in 313 at-bats, homering for the first time since hitting a grand slam on April 4 at St. Louis.

"As little as I've contributed offensively, it's nice to do anything positive," said Ausmus, who had been hitting just .154 (2-for-13) through five games of Houston's six-game homestand. "In that sense, yeah, I was happy with my performance today. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in awhile."

"Ausmus had a really good day at the plate today. He got a double and homer and a walk," Williams said. "That was great for him and I'm sure that kind of day makes him very happy."

Villone surrendered back-to-back solo shots in the seventh, but Jeff Kent and Lance Berkman smacked two more solo homers off Expos closer Rocky Biddle and Adam Everett added an RBI single in the eighth for a six-run lead.

Houston finished its homestand with a 3-3 mark, but has alternated losses and wins in its last 12 contests. It's lead in the National League Central remained 2 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs .

Making his first major league appearance in three years, Downs gave up five runs and five hits in three innings. He was recalled from Class AAA Edmonton on Friday. Montreal has yet to win with a lefthanded starter this season.

"My location just wasn't there today," Downs said. "I left a few pitches up to the first couple of hitters, they got a few hits and that set the tone for them. I was just missing a little bit and I'd get behind in the count and that would force me to have to come over the plate and you can't do that against these guys. You're going to get beat unless you locate. The bottom line is that I didn't do what I was supposed to do."


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