Notes: Berkman in left in finale

Notes: Berkman in left in finale

HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman didn't have an issue with playing left field on Sunday, even though he hadn't played in the outfield since June 7.

"I'm interchangeable," said Berkman, who will play mostly at first base this year.

Berkman was slotted in left field Sunday, mainly because manager Phil Garner wanted to give Mike Lamb a start, and Lamb, not suited for the outfield, needs to play first base. Lamb can also play third, but the Astros, who entered Sunday's game eight games under .500, are in no position to bench Morgan Ensberg, their hottest hitter.

"We're better configured this way," Garner said. "Your guys that are sitting on the bench, you like to get them in the lineup once in a while. I really think Lamb is swinging the bat well now. I'm hoping to keep him going."

Successful event: The lower bowl of Minute Maid Park was filled on Saturday when the Astros and Rangers wives took the field to play a charity softball game that raised funds for the Texas Chapters of the Autism Society of America.

The event was a rousing success and provided some funny moments for the fans who stuck around to watch.

Patty Biggio, wife of the soon-to-be Major League record holder for being hit by a pitch, was not-so-accidentally plunked during her first at-bat.

"She scored a run, so it was worth it," Craig Biggio said. "On an 0-2 pitch, she's not moving."

Carol Garner, wife of manager Phil Garner, stepped right into her husband's role late in the game when celebrity umpire James Denton -- the plumber on "Desperate Housewives" -- called a Rangers runner safe at home. Catcher Liz Ausmus -- who, like her husband batted at the bottom of the order -- clearly had made the tag on the sliding Rangers batter in time.

Carol Garner ran out of the dugout, arms flailing, to argue the call. All in good fun, of course. And like her husband, she managed to not be thrown out of the game, this time.

Protection: Biggio is one plunking from tying Don Baylor's Major League record of 267 hit by pitches, and the second baseman estimated that four of those have hit him above the neck.

Considering the danger that's involved with being hit in the head by a 95-mph fastball, that's four close calls too many. To protect against serious injury, Biggio wears a helmet bigger and thicker than some worn by other Major Leaguers.

Biggio calls the sleeker, smaller helmets "pretty boy" helmets. They look good, but they don't quite get the job done. He acknowledged that he looks like a gazoo with his thicker helmet, but he doesn't care.

"I wear that big old helmet, and that's the reason why," he said. "Some guys wear pretty boy helmets, and it's only a matter of time before somebody gets hit in the head and it really does some damage. They look good on your head, but they don't work worth a darn."

Minor Leagues: Fernando Nieve picked up his first win in the Pacific Coast League on Saturday, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Triple-A Round Rock's 8-3 win over Memphis. Nieve was recently promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi, where he was 4-3 with a 2.65 ERA. ... Corpus Christi beat Arkansas, 10-8, coming from behind to erase an 8-3 deficit after seven innings. Shortstop Tommy Whiteman delivered the game-winning hit with the bases loaded, a two-run double to give his team the lead. ... Class A Salem beat Kinston, 3-2. Left fielder Wilton Reynolds broke up a tie game with a two-run homer in the fifth. ... Class A Lexington lost to Hagerstown, 9-4. In a game that served as a one-game playoff for the first-half championship, the loss ended the Legends' hopes of clinching a first-half playoff berth. Left-hander Troy Patton took the loss, allowing seven runs (five earned) on five hits over four innings. ... Short-Season Class A Tri-City lost to Vermont, 5-1. Only one night after scoring 16 runs over Vermont, the ValleyCats managed just one run on nine hits. ... Rookie League Greeneville beat Johnson City, 11-4. Right-hander Brandon Stricklen earned his first win with 2 2/3 innings of relief, during which he yielded one run on three hits.

Coming up: The Astros travel to Denver to begin a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies on Monday. Rookie left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (2-3, 7.64 ERA) will get his first taste of Coors Field, facing the Rockies' Jamey Wright (4-7, 5.31 ERA).

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.