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Huge eighth propels Astros blowout

Huge eighth propels Astros blowout

HOUSTON -- Aubrey Huff nearly convinced himself to lay down a bunt against Brewers reliever Brian Shouse with runners on first and second and no outs in the eighth inning on Tuesday night.

Fortunately, Huff chose to swing away instead.

He drove a pitch from Shouse off the left-field wall to plate the go-ahead run in that eighth inning, when the Astros scored seven times during their 10-3 win in front of 32,981 at Minute Maid Park.

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"I can't remember the last time I got a hit off the guy," said Huff, who was 2-for-10 against Shouse entering the game. "Honestly, he's been on me my whole career."

But not Tuesday, when the Astros stretched their winning streak to four games and moved within four games of the .500 mark.

The only downside of this win was that Willy Taveras was unable to extend his franchise-record 30-game hitting streak. He was plunked twice by Brewers starter Tomo Ohka -- once on the neck -- and finished the game 0-for-3.

"I didn't get the opportunities because I got hit," Taveras said. "I only got one ball. It was a little frustrating to get hit twice like that. I would like to have had some clean at-bats. It was really strange for me, but the good thing was we won."

For sure. The Astros pulled off this win after right-hander Roy Oswalt relinquished a 3-0 lead in the seventh.

No worries, though, because the Astros rallied against the Brewers' bullpen in the big eighth inning. Craig Biggio drew a leadoff walk from Shouse, and Lance Berkman followed with a single to left.

Huff then strolled to the plate thinking bunt.

Well, on second thought ...

"If I bunt this and pop it up, I'm just going to kill myself all night over it," Huff said, "so I'll just take my chances."

Good choice. He maintained his composure, Huff said, and got a pitch he could handle to score Biggio.

"I got that hit to open things up a little bit," Huff said.

Actually, the floodgates opened from there. Luke Scott, the next batter, was hit by a pitch from Shouse to load the bases, and Adam Everett lined an RBI single to center off Dan Kolb, who relieved Shouse.

Next up was Brad Ausmus, who walked, before pinch-hitter Jason Lane launched a grand slam off the facade in left to give his club a seven-run cushion.

"It felt great," Lane said. "I'm not worried about results as much as just having good at-bats. I think I'm starting to get a few more results of late."

Lane isn't back in that starting role now, but he's hitting .295 (13-for-44) over his last 19 home games.

That's a nice transition from the .190 mark he was at two-plus months ago.

"I think there's always something to prove," Lane said. "Obviously, I had a decent year last year and got off to a slow start this year. It just shows you that you always have to prove something every day or someone's going to be there in your spot."

Even if he doesn't win back a full-time spot this season, contributions like the one he gave on Tuesday will be key to propelling the Astros into the postseason.

Taveras is one player who's kept the Astros near the top. In the eighth, he was rewarded with one final at-bat against reliever Derrick Turnbow.

Unfortunately, Taveras struck out. He still earned a standing ovation despite his streak's halt.

"That was nice of our fans to recognize what he accomplished," manager Phil Garner said. "A 30-game hitting streak's not easy to do."

Neither is a five-game winning streak for the Astros -- this season, at least. Their four-game winning streak is their sixth different one this season, and the Astros are 0-for-5 in attempts to stretch it to five.

Perhaps, this night's late offensive charge is that needed spark to put them over the hump.

"Whenever you score seven runs in the eighth inning like that, that's great," Everett said. "It was definitely very encouraging."

Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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