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Third & Short: Astros' offense comes to life in win

Third & Short: Astros' offense comes to life in win

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Astros 6, Marlins 5: HOUSTON - Lance Berkman and Preston Wilson hit two-run homers as Houston built a 6-1 lead. Craig Biggio had two hits and scored two runs for the defending NL champions, who took two of three in their opening series against the Marlins, the team with the major leagues' lowest payroll.

Winner Wandy Rodriguez, who replaced scheduled starter Brandon Backe, allowed four runs and seven hits in his first outing since relieving a hobbled Roger Clemens in Game 1 of the World Series. Backe sat out with a sore back on his 28th birthday but said he'll start Friday against Washington.

Brad Lidge got Josh Willingham to ground out with runners on first and second in the ninth to get his second save.

Red Sox 2, Rangers 1: ARLINGTON - Josh Beckett pitched seven innings to win his Boston debut, and Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer.

Beckett got off to a rocky start, allowing a leadoff double by Brad Wilkerson before throwing a wild pitch and allowing Michael Young's infield RBI single. But the Rangers got only one runner to third base against Beckett after that.

Beckett allowed a run and scattered seven hits. He had five strikeouts and one walk, throwing 75 of his 109 pitches for strikes.

Texas starter Kameron Loe allowed two runs and six hits over 6 2-3 innings, with one strikeout and three walks.


Trail Blazers 76, Rockets 75: PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Trail Blazers snapped an 11-game losing streak when Sebastian Telfair hit a jumper with 27.7 seconds to go for a 76-75 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Zach Randolph had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Blazers, who led by as many as 10 points but nearly squandered the win.

Houston, which never led by more than four points, kept it close in the final quarter, then fell behind 74-71 on Telfair's layup with 2:02 left.

PHOENIX - All-Star Suns forward Amare Stoudemire had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday and won't play again this season.

The operation followed a comeback that lasted three games. He missed the first 66 games of the season after surgery on his left knee.

In the latest operation, debris caused by wear and tear of the kneecap was removed, the team said. Stoudemire will be on crutches for a week to 10 days and can resume basketball in six to eight weeks.

College Basketball

MANHATTAN, Kan. - New Kansas State basketball coach Bob Huggins started putting his staff together Wednesday with the hiring of Frank Martin and Dalonte Hill as assistant coaches.

Martin, 40, has been an assistant at Cincinnati for the last two seasons, working under Huggins in 2004-05. Before that, he was an assistant at Northeastern for four years.

He also has 15 years of high school coaching experience in Miami, seven as a head coach.

Hill, 27, has been an assistant for the past three seasons at Charlotte, helping lead the 49ers to a 61-30 record and two trips to the NCAA tournament.

FAIRFAX, Va. - Seton Hall was granted permission Wednesday to talk to George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who led the Patriots to an improbable berth in last weekend's Final Four.

Seton Hall contacted Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor, who gave the Pirates the go-ahead to speak to Larranaga as they seek a replacement for Louis Orr.

Reached by telephone, Liz Larranaga said her husband was in New York for an unrelated event and was unsure whether any meetings with Seton Hall were scheduled.


NEW YORK - Owners Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh and Jerry Richardson of Carolina were appointed Wednesday to head the eight-member committee that will search for the successor to commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The group was put together by Tagliabue to ensure that it includes diverse views among the owners. Rooney and Richardson are two of the owners Tagliabue trusts most. Others on the committee include Dallas' Jerry Jones and Oakland's Al Davis, both of whom have often clashed with the commissioner.

Robert Kraft of New England, Lamar Hunt of Kansas City, Mike McCaskey of Chicago and Woody Johnson of the New York Jets round out the group.

Tagliabue, who two weeks ago announced his intention to retire, reiterated last week that he thinks a successor can be in place by July. But he has said he would stay on as long as he has to. In any event, he will remain through 2008 as a consultant.

College Football

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom indefinitely suspended six players Tuesday after they were charged with assaulting a police officer last weekend.

The six players have pleaded not guilty, their lawyer said.

Five players were arrested Sunday night on the felony charge: cornerback Derek Pegues and safety Keith Fitzhugh, both starters; offensive tackle Michael Gates, and defensive ends Charles Burns and Quinton Wesley. Quarterback Tray Rutland was arrested Monday.


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