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  Tuesday, Sep. 12 8:05pm ET
Estes recovers from four-run first inning
 
  RECAP | BOX SCORE | GAME LOG

HOUSTON (AP) -- Shawn Estes didn't allow a shaky first inning to rattle his confidence.

Estes (15-4), who won for the 10th time in 11 decisions, gave up four first-inning runs, then gave up only one in the next six innings as San Francisco beat Houston 9-5 on Tuesday night.

Shawn Estes
Shawn Estes recovered from a four-run first inning to earn his 15h win Tuesday as the Giants beat Houston.

"I had to keep things in perspective," Estes said of the first inning. "I tried to keep them off balance after that and more importantly keep the guys around the middle of the lineup off base."

He struck out the last three batters in the first and retired 12 of the next 14 on his way to his third straight victory.

"That was all they got," Estes said. "After that I got into a comfort zone and I got a rhythm going. I thought I had pretty good stuff. The middle of their lineup is as good as it gets in this league."

The Giants never lost faith in Estes early.

"You can't throw perfectly all the time," Jeff Kent said. "Shawn's mature enough to know a game is longer than just one inning.

"You've got to pitch the entire game and have faith in your offense. Shawn's a lot better pitcher now and he's going to get even better."

Catcher Bobby Estalella saw a noticeable change in Estes midway through the first inning.

"His first six or seven batters, he didn't have much movement on anything," Estalella said. "The ball seemed real flat, especially with his fastball.

"After they scored the four runs, I think he got upset and started bearing down. His ball had a lot more movement then, especially with the sinker and he moved it away from hitters. If he had pitched like that from the beginning, he would have been okay."

The Astros were impressed with Estes.

"He's the real item," manager Larry Dierker said of Estes. "He reminds me a lot of (Mike) Hampton, coming on this way like Hampton did a couple of years ago. And he's liable to be pretty good for a lot of years because he's still young."

Marvin Benard, Barry Bonds and Bill Mueller all homered as the Giants rallied past the Astros for the second straight night.

San Francisco began the night with an 8-game lead over second-place Arizona in the NL West.

Houston, which had won three straight NL Central titles, was eliminated from postseason contention earlier in the night when the New York Mets beat Milwaukee. The Astros (63-82) are assured of their first losing season since going 65-97 in 1991.

Jeff Bagwell hit his 43rd homer, tying the Astros team record he set in 1997.

Estes struck out eight in seven innings, surrendering five runs and nine hits.

Scott Elarton (16-6) gave up six runs and seven hits in six innings. Coming in, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, his .762 winning percentage was the third-highest for a pitcher on a team with a losing record, trailing only Sandy Koufax (19-5, .792 for Los Angeles in 1964) and Bib Gibson (23-7, .767 for St. Louis in 1970).

"It wasn't me in the third inning," Elarton said. "I really got away from the way I've pitched the last two or three months. After that inning, I came back really upset with myself."

Benard hit his 12th homer of the year on the third pitch of the game, but Houston took a 4-1 lead in the bottom half on Richard Hidalgo's two-run double and Moises Alou's two-run triple. Hidalgo has nine RBIs in his last four games.

San Francisco came back in the third on Felipe Crespo's two-run single and Rich Aurilia's two-run double, but Bagwell's homer made it 5-all in the bottom half.

Bonds put the Giants ahead to stay in the fifth with his 46th homer, matching his career high, set in 1993. Mueller hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Rich Aurilia added an RBI grounder in the ninth.

Game notes
Benard has eight homers leading off games, including two this year (also Aug. 15 at Montreal). ... Hidalgo is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with the bases loaded this season with four doubles, a home run and 23 RBI this season.
 


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