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Berkman delivers winner in ninth for Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — Facing a two-strike pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth, Lance Berkman came ever so close to striking out to end the game.

Given a reprieve on his check swing by the umpire, Berkman came through with one of the biggest hits of the Houston Astros' bad season.

Berkman singled in two runs against NL saves leader Matt Capps as the Astros answered Washington's late rally with one of their own in an 8-7 victory against the Nationals on Tuesday night.

"For me, a check swing is one of those calls in the game that there's very little consistency on it," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "Nobody really knows what it is, what it isn't. If you check swing, to me, that means the pitcher beat the hitter. You know? If there's a gray, it should be a strike. There's a way to take a strike, and it's not in the form of a check swing. It works that way for both clubs."

The Nationals grabbed a 7-6 lead with a two-run rally against Houston closer Matt Lidstrom on RBI singles from Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond.

But Pedro Feliz reached on Ryan Zimmerman's fielding error to start Houston's ninth. He was sacrificed to second by Kevin Cash and pinch hitter Cory Sullivan's double off the wall in left field put runners on second and third.

Capps (0-2), who leads the league with 17 saves and had only blown one opportunity, intentionally walked Michael Bourn to load the bases, but after getting a second out, Berkman drove the ball to left to win it. He finished with five RBIs.

"That's a good come-from-behind win," Berkman said. "I feel like we shouldn't have been in that position. I made a bad throw home, and that ended up costing us three runs. To be able to atone for that late in the game, that helps us."

It was Berkman's 13th career performance of five or more RBIs. He's reached base safely by walk or hit in 21 of his last 22 games.

"I made a good pitch and I thought he made a pretty good offering at it," Capps said. "If I'm perfect, I don't have to worry about it. I tried to bear down and execute, and I felt like I did. He had a nice piece of hitting on his part. It's frustrating."

Wilton Lopez (2-0) got the final two outs in the ninth for Houston, which owns the worst record in the NL.

"We just keep battling. Keep battling and good things will happen," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "The pitchers are doing their thing to pick up the hitters almost all year long, so it was nice to see the hitters come through. It was a team effort. It was huge."

Lindstrom spoiled a solid seven inning performance by Houston starter Brett Myers, who allowed four hits and struck out 10 and walked three.

"It's always good to give your team a chance to win," Myers said. "I try to go out there and give our team a chance to win. If I make mistakes, then I try to pitch around those mistakes I do make. I try to get outs as quick as I can, so we can keep our offense in a rhythm."

Houston took a 3-0 first inning lead on Berkman's two-run double and Feliz's had a sacrifice fly in the third for a 4-0 lead.

Washington tied it in the fifth aided by two Houston errors.

Hunter Pence's ninth homer gave Houston the lead at 5-4 in the fifth and Berkman's single added a run in the sixth off reliever Drew Storen.

NOTES: Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn is hitting .290 with 110 RBIs with the bases loaded. Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella had reached base safely in 14 of his last 17 games prior to Tuesday night. The Astros placed right-handed pitcher Chris Sampson on the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his right rotator cuff. The Astros purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Casey Daigle from Triple-A Round Rock to replace Sampson on the 25-man roster. Before his error, Berkman was the only NL first baseman without a miscue this season.