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Padres 6, Astros 3

June 1, 1997

HOUSTON (AP) _ Of all people, Ken Caminiti could empathize with Bill Spiers on Sunday.

Caminiti’s grounder to third base in the eighth inning took a bad hop off the lip of the dirt and skipped past Spiers for a two-run double, sending the San Diego Padres past the Houston Astros 6-3.

Caminiti played third for the Astros from 1987-94 and knows well the hazards of trying to field hard-hit balls in that uncertain dirt.

``You can’t field that ball,″ Caminiti said. ``Unless you get lucky.″

Luck is something that hasn’t been going Caminiti’s way this season. Last year’s National League MVP was on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring from May 12 until last Tuesday, and entered Sunday’s game hitting just .235. Going into the eighth inning, he was mired in a 1-for-15 slump.

``That was just a good hop for me,″ Caminiti said. ``I was lucky it hit the dirt. But I’ll take it as bad as I’ve been struggling.″

But he admitted he felt for Spiers.

``It’s really bad here,″ Caminiti said. ``The track at third base is bad. The turf is just so uneven, you never know where it’s going to hop.

``(Spiers) did everything he could do but the ball just stayed down. The turf’s a lot worse now than when I was here. I don’t even like to take grounders before the game. I got hit three times before the game today trying to field grounders.″

The big hit helped the Padres to their third straight win over the Astros.

``We got a break there,″ manager Bruce Bochy said. ``Caminiti’s ball took a tricky hop and opened the door for us.″

And it left the slumping Astros a season-low three games under .500 (26-29).

``The ball Caminiti hit could have got us out of the inning,″ manager Larry Dierker said. ``Then it takes one of those bounces nobody could field.″

``I was ready to make the play and it hit the lip and took off to the side,″ Spiers said. ``There was nothing I could do. It was a freak bounce. That’s the way things have been going for us lately.″

It was especially tough for Houston to take since starter Mike Hampton had worked 7 1-3 brilliant innings, allowing only one hit going into the eighth.

``Any loss is frustrating,″ Hampton said. ``I pitched good enough through seven. I just couldn’t hold them in the eighth.

``We’re a better team than we’ve played lately. We’re not getting many good breaks and we’re getting too many bad ones.″

Carlos Hernandez singled to open the eighth and pinch-hitter Quilvio Veras doubled. Pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn, who did not start because of a sore hamstring, followed with a two-run single.

With two outs, Steve Finley singled off Billy Wagner (2-3) to set up Caminiti’s clutch hit.

Reliever Trevor Hoffman got his first hit since 1995, a single during the Padres’ two-run ninth.

Doug Bochtler (1-2) got two outs and the victory. Hoffman pitched 1 1-3 innings for his eighth save.

After Finley tripled and Caminiti walked in the first inning, Hampton retired 19 of the next 20 batters.

Hampton drew a walk from Joey Hamilton in the second and scored on a double by Craig Biggio, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. Thomas Howard followed with an RBI single.

Biggio walked in the fourth and later scored on a single by Jeff Bagwell.

Notes: Padres pitcher Will Cunnane pinch-ran for Gwynn and scored the tying run. ... The Astros acquired outfielder Chuckie Carr, who had been released by Milwaukee on May 17 and assigned him to Triple-A New Orleans. He was the Brewers leadoff hitter and starting center fielder last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury on May 30.

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