Hitting pitcher gets game winner as Astros beat Braves 12-11

ATLANTA (AP) - His batting average didn't indicate that pitcher Jason Jennings was a threat as a hitter. He sounded like one, though.

Jennings came through with a pinch-hit, two-out RBI single in the 14th inning to give Houston a 12-11 win over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, ending a three-game losing skid.

Jennings, who was 1-for-17 entering the game, singled to right on a 2-1 pitch from Oscar Villarreal (1-1), scoring Jason Lane from second.

"I had a good hitter's count, so I was sitting on a fast ball and that's what I got," Jennings said. "I knew he didn't want to walk me with the leadoff hitter coming up next."

Despite his average - he raised it from .059 to .111 with the hit - Jennings wasn't surprised that he got the game-winner. In six seasons, he had a .219 career batting average with two homers, 14 doubles and 25 RBIs in 302 at-bats.

"He's a good hitter. He swings the bat good," said Astros manager Phil Garner. "It was good for him and certainly good for us."

Especially considering his recent performances on the mound.

In his last start on Sunday, Jennings gave up 11 runs, eight hits and three walks in the first inning against San Diego and was gone after getting only two outs. It was the most runs given up by a pitcher to start a game since Aug. 13, 2006, when Kansas City's Luke Hudson allowed 11 runs against Cleveland.

He made a relief appearance Wednesday night and allowed one run in Houston's 12-3 loss to the Braves. Jennings, 2-7 with a 6.03 ERA, is scheduled to start Saturday at Florida.

"Mentally, it helps a little," Jennings said of the hit. "But I don't get paid to hit. I'm paid to pitch."

Mark McLemore (1-0) got the win with a scoreless 13th. Brian Moehler earned his first save with a scoreless 14th.

The Braves tied it at 11 in the 12th when Matt Diaz hit an 0-1 pitch for a two-run homer off Brad Lidge. Corky Miller had reached on an infield hit.

Lane, who earlier hit a three-run homer, hit a sacrifice fly in the 12th inning to give the Astros an 11-9 lead.

Carlos Lee singled with one out against Ron Mahay in the 11th and took third on a single to right by Ty Wigginton. Lane then hoisted a fly ball to center, easily scoring Lee. Wigginton took second on a passed ball and scored when second baseman Kelly Johnson booted Mike Lamb's grounder.

The Braves have scored in double figures in their last four games, scoring 49 runs on 68 hits. The Astros, meanwhile, have given up 53 runs in their last four.

The first nine Houston runs had come as a result of home runs, a two-run shot by Lance Bergman, Lane's three-run homer and a grand slam by Lamb.

Pinch-hitter Lamb hit his bases-loaded home run in the eighth on a 1-1 pitch off Rafael Soriano to tie it at 9. Lee opened the inning with a single and took second on an infield hit by Wigginton. Lane loaded the bases when he reached on an error by third baseman Willie Harris.

Mark Teixeira, Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Harris and Diaz each had two RBIs for the Braves, who had 22 hits.

"You don't expect games like that," said Teixeira, "but someone had to lose it."

Harris put Atlanta ahead 7-5 in the fifth with a two-out, two-run triple off Woody Williams, the 13th hit off the 40-year-old right-hander. Williams lasted only five innings.

The Braves made it 9-5 in the sixth on a two-run double by Francoeur.

Teixeira hit his second homer as a Brave and 15th of the season. The two-run, 405-foot shot over the right-center field fence in the fourth tied the game at 5 after Harris had opened the inning with a double.

Teixeira, acquired from Texas on Tuesday in a seven-player trade, hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs in his Atlanta debut Wednesday night.

Lane hit a three-run homer, his fifth, and Bergman - who has homered in four straight games - hit a two-run shot in a five-run third inning off Atlanta rookie Jo-Jo Reyes.

The left-hander pitched three innings, allowing four hits and five runs while walking four and striking out one.

The Braves opened the scoring when Andruw Jones hit a solo home run, his 21st, in the second for a 1-0 lead. Atlanta added two runs off Williams in the third on a run-scoring groundout by Jones and an RBI double by Brian McCann.

The Braves beat Arizona 14-0 on Sunday, and defeated Houston 12-4 on Tuesday night and 12-3 on Wednesday night. Houston, meanwhile, lost to San Diego 18-11 on Sunday before the three-game series with Atlanta.

Notes: Braves SS Edgar Renteria left the game in the eighth inning with a sprained right ankle and sore back. He was injured on a one-hop liner by Wigginton and will miss at least three games, Cox said. ... After the game, the Braves optioned Reyes to Triple-A Richmond and recalled RHP Lance Cormier. ... Chipper Jones replaced Renteria at shortstop, his first time at that position since June 12-18, 2000. LF Harris replaced Jones at 3B, a position he had never played in the majors, although he has played some at second. ... Atlanta RHP Buddy Carlyle, who left Wednesday night's game in the sixth inning with a hyperextended elbow, shouldn't miss a turn. "He told me he'd be fine," Cox said. ... The 13 hits allowed by Williams matched his career-high set July 3, 1999, against Colorado. ... The grand slam by Lamb was the seventh this year by the Astros, tying the franchise record set in 2001. ... Villarreal singled in the 13th inning, his first major league hit after going 0-for-10.



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