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6 Houston Hurlers No-Hit Yanks

It took a record six pitchers to no-hit the New York Yankees, and that wasn't the only bizarre thing about the Houston Astros' big night in the Bronx.

Forced to scramble after ace Roy Oswalt was injured, five relievers finished off the first no-hitter against the Yankees in 45 years.

Completing the Astros' 8-0 victory Wednesday night were: Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner.

"First appearance for most of us in Yankee Stadium," Wagner said. "What better place could there be? This is like the history book."

It was the most pitchers ever to combine on a no-hitter in the majors — four had twice done the trick.

The Yankees had gone 6,980 games — the longest streak in big league history — without being no-hit, since Hoyt Wilhelm's 1-0 victory for Baltimore on Sept. 20, 1958.

Since then, the proud franchise had won nine World Series titles and 15 AL pennants.

The last time New York was held hitless at Yankee Stadium was on Aug. 25, 1952, by Detroit's Virgil Trucks.

With Yankees' fans standing and applauding, Wagner pumped his fist as he stepped on first base to end it. Many of the Astros ran onto the field to give high-fives while the Yankees couldn't clear out of the dugout fast enough.

"This is one of the worst games I've ever been involved in," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It was a total, inexcusable performance."

Torre called it the low point for the Yankees since he started managing the club in 1996.

New York dropped out of first place in the AL East, falling a half-game behind Boston. Torre held a team meeting after the loss.

"Tonight was an ugly, ugly performance," he said. "Once things started snowballing, I think we lost our composure."

Wagner, who kept the final ball, couldn't even hear the crowd as he wrapped up Houston's eighth win in nine games.

"My heart was about to pound out of my chest," he said.

The closest New York came to a hit was in the fifth inning against Saarloos, when Alfonso Soriano sent a fly ball into short left field. Lance Berkman, who hit a two-run run homer in the third inning, ran in, stuck out his glove and made a tumbling catch.

"It wasn't that close," Berkman said. "It probably looked more spectacular than it really was."

Third baseman Geoff Blum made a barehanded pickup on Juan Rivera in the third inning and threw him out at first.

"One guy usually goes out there and does it," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "Maybe two, but not six."

By the time the Astros returned to their clubhouse, the Yankees had left bottles of Mumms champagne in front of the lockers of all six pitchers.

"That's how the Yankees are, they're pretty classy," Wagner said.

Many of the Astros hadn't even realized a no-hitter was in progress until the late innings — Wagner said Jeff Kent didn't even know it at the end of the game. But out in the bullpen, Wagner knew it would come down to him.

"I'm sitting out there going, `Oh my goodness,"' Wagner said. "Jimy doesn't even have to call."

Astros pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts, including four by Dotel in the eighth, which tied the major league record for an inning. Soriano reached when he struck out on a wild pitch.

Wagner struck out Jorge Posada and pinch-hitter Bubba Trammell to start the ninth.

Wagner then got Hideki Matsui to ground to first base with one pitch to complete the Astros' 10th no-hitter, the first since Darryl Kile against the New York Mets on Sept. 8, 1993.

This was the second no-hitter in the majors this season. Kevin Millwood pitched one for Philadelphia on April 27 against San Francisco.

And it came on the 65th anniversary of Johnny Vander Meer's first no-hitter. The only pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters, he started that streak on June 11, 1938, for Cincinnati against the Boston Braves.

Overall, it was the third no-hitter in a game between AL and NL teams, and all of them have been at Yankee Stadium.

The other two were perfect games — Don Larsen did it against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series and David Cone did it against Montreal on July 18, 1999.

Oswalt strained his right groin and left in the second inning. He looked toward catcher Brad Ausmus after his second pitch of the inning, his 23rd of the game, and immediately was replaced.

Oswalt originally hurt his groin May 15 while running the bases against Pittsburgh and was on the disabled list until May 31. He planned to return to Houston on Thursday for an MRI.

"I actually felt it against (Jason) Giambi in the first inning," he said.

Munro pitched 2 2-3 innings, Saarloos 1 1-3 innings and Lidge (4-0) went two innings. Dotel threw the eighth and became the 44th pitcher in history to strike out four in an inning.

"The first time to step on the Yankee Stadium mound and be part of a no-hitter is something special, something I'll never forget," Saarloos said.

Dotel and Wagner combined to fan eight straight hitters before Matsui grounded out.

"If they get a hit, who cares?" Dotel said. "I just wanted to do my thing."

Munro grew up in Flushing, near Shea Stadium. He was a fan of the Mets and rooted against the Yankees.

"This is a get-you-back game," he said.

New York, just 16-24 since its 20-4 start, looked awful throughout, with physical and mental miscues.

Jeff Weaver (3-5), repeatedly booed by the fans, appeared uncomfortable in his first start since May 31. He had been dropped from the rotation after owner George Steinbrenner wanted Jose Contreras to start, and was back only because Contreras went on the disabled list earlier this week.

Weaver gave up a double to Craig Biggio leading off the game and allowed him to score on a two-out wild pitch.

Orlando Merced tripled off Rivera's glove in left field in the second and scored on Jose Vizcaino's sacrifice fly. After Berkman's homer — which extended his hitting streak to 17 games — landed in the upper deck — Weaver could only stare at the plate under his cap, pulled low, while he waited for the umpire to give him a new ball.

Weaver stayed in for 6 1-3 innings, allowing five runs and 10 hits.

"All of us made some tough choices out there tonight and we didn't come through," Weaver said. "But then again, these are things that build you as a team. You have to look at the bright side — from here you can only go up."

By Ronald Blum

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