Jose Lima leads the National League with 17 wins and he isn't surprised.
Florida won the second game 3-1. Former Astros first-round draft pick Ramon Castro, traded to Florida in July 1998 for Jay Powell, put the Marlins ahead with an RBI double in his first career at-bat, and Ryan Dempster took a shutout into the ninth.
As for the opener, Lima showed he's making a habit of meeting his goals.
"They laughed last year when I said I would win 15, and I won 16," Lima said. "They say I'm just a big talker. But I did what I said last year, and I still plan to do what I said this year."
"Before the season, I would have bet against him winning 17 if I were a betting man, which I'm not," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "I don't think the odds would have favored him."
"But I know he's a durable pitcher and he throws lots of strikes. I just wouldn't have thought he'd win this many with a team that hasn't scored many runs for him. We're supposed to be a high-scoring team but we haven't been."
Lima allowed two runs and nine hits in seven innings, striking out nine. Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in 35 chances.
Houston, 7-1 against Florida, saw its NL Central lead cut to a half-game over second-place Cincinnati when it lost the second game.
Dempster (6-6) allwed one run and six hits in eight-plus innings, struck out four and walked three.
"I'd say this was my best outing of the year," Dempster said. "Especially facing that lineup. I got a lot of groundball outs and that's a good sign for me."
Chris Holt (3-12) gave up two runs and eight hits in seven innings.
Castro, who went 2-for-3, put Florida ahead with an RBI double in a two-run second that also included Chris Clapinsky's RBI single. Dave Berg added an RBI single in the eighth.
"It was a great night tonight," Castro said. "It was very exciting. I found out at noon yesterday that I was coming here. I got here at 1 and i knew I would catch the second game. I'm ready to play."
Castro said playing the Astros wasn't special.
"It's no big deal," he said. "I'm going to play hard against every team."
Florida manager John Boles was impressed enough that he wants to see more of Castro.
"He's come a long way from Instructional League to now," Boles said. "He saw some things tonight I didn't even see. He called a great game and he'll catch tomorrow."
Houston is quite familiar with Castro, taken with the 17th pick overall in the 1994 amateur draft.
"He was a good prospect for us," Dierker said. "We had to give them a good player to get Jay Powell, who has had a lot of success for us."
In the opener, Dennis Springer (5-13) gave up all three runs and eight hits in eight innings.
"I think Dennis pitched a very good game," Boles said. "But it's tough to win when their pitcher pitches that well."
"We got nine hits and only two runs and that's been the story for us lately. We've been getting the hits and our guys are fighting like crazy. But we just can't get that extra hit we need."
Alex Gonzalez's RBI single put Florida ahead in the third but Houston, coming off a 3-2 road trip, took a 3-1 lead in the fourth when Jeff Bagwell singled, Carl Everett doubled, Lance Berkman hit a two-out single and A href="http://www.sportsline.com/u/baseball/mlb/players/player_7676.htm">Ricky Gutierrez hit an RBI single.
Kevin Miller had a run-scoring triple in the fifth.
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