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Astacio Goes the Distance Again, 6-3 : Dodgers: He defeats the Astros' Kile to earn his team-leading 14th victory.


For the opening game of their final home stand, the Dodgers offered the crowd of 29,442 a fine pitching matchup: Pedro Astacio, coming off two consecutive shutouts, against the Houston Astros' Darryl Kile, who became the third major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter this season when he faced only 28 New York Mets on Sept. 8.

But Kile had faced 21 batters by the time he was lifted in the fourth inning Friday night. By then, the Dodgers had nine hits against Kile (15-8) and were ahead, 6-3, which remained the final score. Kile's trademark curveball, which freezes batters in their tracks, had thawed out.

Meanwhile, Astacio (14-8) retired the first 10 before he faltered, giving up a three-run homer to Ken Caminiti in the fourth inning to tie the score, 3-3. It stopped Astacio's consecutive scoreless-inning streak at 21, the Dodgers' longest streak since Ramon Martinez had 22 in 1991. After that, Astacio settled down and retired 12 of the next 13 batters before putting the first two Astros on base in the ninth inning. But Astacio retired the next batter and Jody Reed helped out by turning a sharp grounder into a double play to make Astacio the winningest pitcher on the staff and move the Dodgers into sole possession of third place.

Astacio, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts, has turned his season around with the addition of a screwball-type changeup.

"He's throwing the best I've seen all season," Mike Piazza said of Astacio, who gave up five hits, struck out eight and walked one. "He's been around the plate and has had the poise, knowledge and concentration."

Kile began the season in the bullpen before working his way into the starting rotation full time, which led to a nine-game winning streak. He was chosen for the All-Star team, then came the no-hitter.

"He's always had the same stuff; he's just learned how to master it and throw it with more control," Astro catcher Eddie Taubensee said.

"He can throw his fastball, curveball and changeup consistently and for strikes, and especially his curveball; that has been his out pitch. Once he got that going, it's been one of the best curveballs in the league."

There was nobody interested in Kile back in 1987, when he was a skinny first baseman/pitcher from Norco High with a fastball of only 78 m.p.h. Only Houston was interested in him after he was a walk-on at Chaffey Junior College.

But between Kile's freshman and sophomore year at Chaffey, Kile gained 13 m.p.h. on his fastball, grew three inches to 6 feet 5 and gained 20 pounds.

The Dodgers got to Kile early Friday night, scoring two runs in the second inning on two singles and a double down the left-field line by Reed. Cory Snyder had a run-scoring single in the third and the Dodgers scored three more in the fourth when Jose Offerman singled in Tim Wallach and Piazza hit a two-run single to left to give him 97 runs batted in this season.

The Dodgers want to re-sign Reed before he becomes a free agent, but Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, said that although talks are amiable, they are far apart in terms of contract length and money.

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