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Sexson provides punch in Milwaukee win

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros are in a pennant race but they
didn't play much like it.

Ruben Quevedo allowed five hits in seven innings, and Richie
Sexson homered and drove in three runs as the Milwaukee Brewers
beat the Houston Astros 7-2 Saturday night.

Despite the loss, the NL Central-leading Astros maintained their
5 1/2-game lead over the Chicago Cubs, who lost 5-3 to Atlanta.

"We've been battling the Astros pretty well lately," Milwaukee
manager Davey Lopes said. "We played them pretty tough head to
head even when we lost two or three in Milwaukee, we were in
position to win the other two.

"We're not going to roll over for anybody and I don't think
anybody expects us to."

The loss left Astros manager Larry Dierker perplexed about his
team's continued hitting slump.

"I can't talk too much more about it, if we can't hit this that
guy then who can we hit?" Dierker said. "It was uninspired
baseball. We should have looked up on the scoreboard and seen that
we had an opportunity."

A victory would have given the Astros their biggest lead of the
season at 6 1/2 games.

Quevedo (4-2) gave up a run in the first inning but settled down
and retired 10 of 11 batters during one stretch. He allowed two
runs, striking out four and walking four.

"I felt pretty good. The first inning was kind of tough,"
Quevedo said. "I made a couple of good pitches to get out of it
and after that I felt real confident. I was working real fast with
my catcher. Our offense was working good and that helped."

Chad Fox and Curtis Leskanic finished the six-hitter.

Ron Villone (6-6) almost escaped the second inning after he hit
Jose Hernandez with a pitch and gave up a single to Kevin Brown.
Quevedo struck out for the second out, but Lou Collier and Mark
Loretta followed with RBI singles for a 2-0 lead.

"He (Villone) had good stuff and he was wild," Dierker said.
"He was no more wild than the other guy. We just didn't do
anything about it and they did."

Hernandez ended an 0-for-7 skid with a two-run double in the
third that gave Milwaukee a 4-1 lead. Devon White tripled and
Jeromy Burnitz walked to start the inning.

Collier doubled to start the fourth and scored on Sexson's
two-out double to left. Sexson hit his 36th homer off Tim Redding
in the sixth inning and added an RBI double in the eighth.

"If we never had to go to Pittsburgh, I think we'd be OK,"
Sexson said. "We play pretty good against these guys. Our goal is
to play the teams at the top and try to make it hard for them. We
realize we're out of it but we want to make it hard on the other
teams."

Prior to arriving in Houston, the Brewers dropped three of four
games to the Pirates for a 1-9 record this season in Pittsburgh.

Astros pitchers tied a season high by striking out 15 batters,
one night after fanning 11 Brewers. Milwaukee has struck out 1,211
times this season, 57 short of the major league record set by the
1996 Detroit Tigers.

Redding struck out seven in 3 1-3 innings of relief.

Houston scored in the first inning when Julio Lugo singled and
scored from first on Lance Berkman's double to right.

Vinny Castilla hit his 22nd homer in the sixth.

Villone allowed five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings. He
struck out six.

"They hit some pitches that were right over the plate, pitches
they should have hit," Villone said. "I just want to put it in
the garbage can and throw it away and come back tomorrow."

Game notes
Quevedo is averaging 8.17 strikeouts in his six starts this
season. ... Villone is 2-2 career against his former team. ... The
Brewers are 53-6 when leading after seven innings. ... Jeff Bagwell
walked in the fifth inning and needs six more walks to become the
first player in major league history with at least 30 homers, 100
RBI, 100 runs scored and 100 walks in six consecutive seasons.