On the day before the Houston Astros officially welcome Randy Johnson, Jose Lima made certain they didn't forget about him.
Lima, in danger of losing his starting job to the Big Unit, pitched a five-hitter and struck out 10 as the Astros celebrated the Johnson trade by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Saturday.
The Astros, who led the NL Central even before landing Johnson in a deadline-beating trade Friday night, have won five of six. The Pirates have lost five of six.
Manager Larry Dierker, admittedly buoyed by a megadeal that brought the Astros one of baseball's premier starters, said before the game that only Sean Bergman and Mike Hampton were sure of staying in the rotation.
Lima (10-6) then went out and pitched like someone who doesn't intend on returning to the bullpen, limiting the Pirates to three hits in the final seven innings. He walked one in his second consecutive complete game, having beaten Florida 9-1 Monday.
"I showed I can be a starting pitcher," Lima said. "I hope I sent a message. I wanted to go out and take care of business."
ut even if he is bumped from the rotation, Lima can't help but be excited with his new teammate.
"Now we have a chance to beat the Braves and the Padres," Lima said. "Whatever decision they make, I have to go with, but I hope they don't make any move with me."
The Astros managed only a run in seven innings against Pirates starter Jason Schmidt before taking the lead in the eighth. Ricardo Rincon walked pinch-hitter Ricky Gutierrez with the bases loaded after consecutive two-out singles off Mike Williams (2-1) by Moises Alou, Carl Everett and Brad Ausmus.
The Pirates, who gave Schmidt only one run of support in his two most recent starts, didn't give him much more despite taking a 1-0 lead in the second on Lou Collier's double.
Schmidt pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second, but his wildness helped Houston tie it in the fifth on Craig Biggio's leadoff walk, a wild pitch and Derek Bell's RBI single.
Schmidt, the NL's first eight-game winner this season but 0-7 in 11 starts since June 1, left after allowing seven hits and striking out nine over seven innings. He struck out the final three batters he faced.
"You could tell our spirits were lifted before this game (by the trade), and if Jason Schmidt hadn't been so tough, you would have seen more evidence of it," Dierker said.
It was a tough day all around for the Pirates. Not only did they lose top run producer Kevin Young to a first-inning ejection, they learned they must unexpectedly face one of baseball's most intimidating pitchers on Sunday.
"We'll be ready for him," manager Gene Lamont said. "I think we'll be prepared for him. All you know is that he is going to come at you."
Young, who normally keeps his temper in check, had to be restrained by four players and coaches after charging Brian Gibbons, one of the league's summertime replacement umpires, and apparently grazing Gibbons on the mouth with his hand.
Young became angry after taking a called third strike. He began arguing as he walked away from home plate, then rushed the umpire and poked his hand at Gibbons' face.
As third base coach Jack Lind grabbed at Young's ankles, trying to pull him away, Young screamed and tried to charge Gibbons again. It finally took manager Gene Lamont, first base coach Joe Jones and several players to contain Young, who likely faces a lengthy suspension if it is determined he touched Gibbons.
"He reacted like I punched him, and all I did was maybe brush the tip of his nose," Young said. "He's an inexperienced umpire but he's also aggressive and he sworat me. You wouldn't take that if you were out on the street."
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