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09/10/09 12:20 AM ET
Astros walk off on Tejada's clutch knock
Wandy's strong start sets up rally in ninth against Braves
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The way Braves rookie Tommy Hanson was throwing the ball Wednesday night, Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada had already resigned himself to the fact he wasn't going to bat again. Tejada was due up fifth in the ninth inning, and there was no reason to believe Hanson was going to give the Astros any kind of lifeline. But when closer Rafael Soriano came to the mound to start the bottom of the ninth, Tejada and the Astros had new life. Tejada bounced a one-out pitch from Soriano back up the middle to score Kazuo Matsui from third base and Lance Berkman from second base, sending the Astros to a dramatic 2-1 walk-off victory over the Braves for their fifth win in six games. "The way the game was going and the way he was pitching, if he stays in the game, I don't know if I am going to get another at-bat," Tejada said. "Michael [Bourn] and Matsui and Lance, they felt much better when they saw him out of the game. The kid is unbelievable. He has unbelievable stuff. Wandy [Rodriguez] pitched a great game, too, but you have to give credit to the kid." Hanson tossed a career-high eight innings, holding the Astros scoreless on five hits while striking out seven. He had retired the final seven batters he faced and 13 of the final 15 before Braves manager Bobby Cox summoned Soriano in the ninth inning to protect a 1-0 lead. "I understood the situation [in the ninth] 100 percent," Hanson said. "[Cox] is the manager, and I do what he says. Every start, I want to go back out. [Cox] is the one who decides when I come out of the game. That's the way it goes." Soriano, who gave up one run and three hits in the ninth inning Tuesday to spoil what would have been a Braves shutout, struck out Bourn to start the ninth. Matsui shot a single to right, and Berkman doubled off the scoreboard in left to put the winning run at second. "I don't think when a guy comes in throwing 96 [mph] with a good slider and a good changeup, that's not exactly a good matchup for anybody," Berkman said. "The way Hanson threw the ball tonight, there was really no increase in stuff from the starter to the closer like their often-times is. He threw a great ballgame, but we happened to get a couple of runs late." The Braves intentionally walked Carlos Lee to load the bases for Tejada, who's grounded into 24 double plays, which is third most in the National League. Tejada bounced a 1-2 slider over Soriano's head and into center field to score both runs. Tejada and Geoff Blum, who left the game and was later diagnosed with a shin contusion and mild ankle sprain, are the first pair of Astros teammates to have three walk-off hits each in a single season. "I'm going to try to hit the ball up the middle," Tejada said. "With the bases loaded and less than two outs, I'm definitely going to try to hit the ball up the middle. That's me. That's where I get a lot of hits and get lucky." Rodriguez nearly matched Hanson. He allowed three hits and one run in seven innings. Wesley Wright threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts, and Jose Valverde (4-2) struck out two in the ninth to get the win. "As far as Wandy, I thought he was terrific again," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "Just a little bit of shoulder fatigue, so we thought it was best to take him out. I thought he was sharp, he threw the ball well and had a good breaking ball tonight. He was his usual self. He was efficient and could have gone back out, but he said he was a little fatigued in the arm, and we decided to take him out." Rodriguez said he told pitching coach Dewey Robinson he didn't want to come back out and pitch the eighth inning because he didn't have zip on his fastball. "I said, 'No,' because I was tired," Rodriguez said. "I felt my arm was strong. I didn't feel sore. I threw a lot of breaking balls all game, but the last inning I threw more. When I threw my fastball, I didn't have the pop on it." Rodriguez enjoyed a 1-2-3 first inning before walking Yunel Escobar to lead off the second. Escobar went to second base on Brian McCann's groundout and scored on a Matt Diaz single to put the Braves ahead, 1-0. Rodriguez buckled down and allowed only two hits over the next five innings. "I tried to concentrate to make good pitches for every hitter," Rodriguez said. "I wanted to keep the game close." Hanson made the most of his first start against the Astros. He allowed leadoff hits in the second and third, but got double plays in both frames. The Astros had runners at first and third in the sixth, but Berkman grounded out on a hot smash to Martin Prado at second base. "We probably wouldn't have gotten anything off of [Hanson]," Cooper said. "It didn't look like it. We had two chances, and we didn't really do anything against him. That kid's pretty impressive."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.