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Scott Elarton's conversion from reliever to starter may finally be complete.

Russ Johnson drove in a career-high six runs and Carl Everett hit two homers Saturday to support Elarton and lead the Houston Astros to an 10-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

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Game Summary

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  • Elarton (6-3) ended a string of five straight no-decisions with the win, his first in nine career starts. Elarton, who moved into the rotation on July 3 after Sean Bergman was sidelined with tendinitis, is 1-1 in seven starts this season.

    "It's been a transition for him, coming out of the bullpen," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "Elarton looked like he threw harder after the first couple of innings. I don't know if he got loose or the competition got him going."

    Elarton gave up four hits in seven innings, tying his career high with nine strikeouts.

    "I finally got into a rhythm when I got some big strikeouts," Elarton said. "The biggest key was the changeup. It's finally good to see it come back. It was a matter of time."

    "That was the first time I put everything together with all four pitches," he said. "I didn't know how long the bullpen adjustment would be. I've spent a full season out there."

    Johnson, who also had a career-high four hits, hit a two-run single in the third, a two-run double in the fourth and RBI singles in the eighth and ninth to lead the Astros to their 12th win in the last 16 games.

    "I'm usually a table-setter," Johnson said. "Today, I got the RBIs."

    Everett homered from both sides of the plate, hitting a solo homer off right-hander Kevin Tapani (6-10) with one out in the second and a solo homer with one out in the seventh off left-hander Felix Heredia.

    "He hurt us last year and he's hurt us this year," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "We've got to make better pitches."

    Elarton struck out Sammy Sosa to start the second, then walked the next two batters. One out later, Gary Gaetti doubled to drive in two runs. Elarton then retired the next 14 batters before Henry Rodriguez singled with one out in the seventh.

    Sosa, who went 1-for-7 in Friday's doubleheader against Houston, went 0-for-3 with a walk. He has one hit in 15 at-bats since hitting his 42nd homer Wednesday against Montreal.

    Tapani gave up five runs three earned and seven hits in six innings as he lost his seventh straight decision.

    "We didn't play very good behind him," Riggleman said. "We're not a good defensive ballclub. It's not a strength of ours. We have to make the plays for our starting pitchers."

    Both Riggleman and first baseman Mark Grace were ejected from the game in the sixth by first base umpire Eric Gregg. Grace hit a ball he thought was fair and Gregg ruled it foul. Riggleman was tossed after arguing with Gregg and Grace was ejected after flying out to end the inning and resuming his disagreement with the umpire.

    "There's a way to argue and a way not to argue," Grace said. "I crossed the line."

    "That's a play that could've gone either way," Riggleman said. "I've got to react to what the player does. Eric had heard enough. But that has nothing to do with the ballgame."

    Johnson hit a two-run single with one out in the Astros third to take a 3-2 lead.

    The Astros loaded the bases with two out in the fourth and Johnson hit a double to drive in a pair and open a 5-2 lead.

    Everett added his second homer in the seventh. He now has three homers in two games since being activated from the disabled list because of a strained hamstring.

    "Carl's been really swinging well," Dierker said. "It's hard to imagine a guy who's been out a couple weeks swinging like that. Three homers in two games and the best thing is there's no lingering sign of the hamstring problem."

    Everett is the last Astro to homer from both sides of the plate, doing so on April 24, 1998, at Montreal. He has seven career two-homer games, including two this year.

    "I don't like to call what I'm in a `zone,'" Everett sai. "I'm just being patient, not trying to do too much with the baseball."

    Rodriguez hit a two-run homer, his 22nd, in the ninth off Doug Henry.

    Notes

  • The start of the game was delayed 26 minutes by rain.
  • Johnson's previous RBI high was two, set Sept. 26, 1997, against Pittsburgh.
  • Elarton also struck out nine on June 20, 1998, at Cincinnati.
  • Andrew Lorraine, who threw a three-hit shutout in his Cubs debut Friday, will stay in the rotation and start Wednesday against Arizona.
  • Houston 3B Ken Caminiti, who has been sidelined because of a strained left calf, will begin a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A New Orleans.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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