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Tuesday, June 15, 1999

Astros manager set for brain surgery

AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros, despite facing adversity all season, still have the best record in the National League.

They didn't have stricken manager Larry Dierker in the dugout with them Monday night, so they hung his No. 49 jersey in the dugout and beat the Atlanta Braves 10-4 for their fourth straight victory.

Dierker collapsed in the Astros dugout Sunday late in a game against the San Diego Padres and faced surgery today to remove a blood vessel mass that caused him to had a grand mal seizure.

"We're just a good ball club," center fielder Carl Everett said. "We've handled bad breaks before, maybe not this severe, but when bad things happen, we've found a way to keep winning."

Craig Biggio hit three doubles, Derek Bell drove in three runs and Jeff Bagwell hit his 21st homer for Houston. The Astros sent Atlanta to its fourth straight loss in a matchup of NL division leaders.

"One of the questions everyone had was how we would bounce back," interim manager Matt Galante said. "We've bounced back from adversity before, and this shows what kind of makeup this club has.

"The news from the hospital was better than we expected. We felt uplifted and I think it helped us."

Biggio and Bagwell visited Dierker in the hospital earlier in the day.

"The rest of this season is for him," Biggio said. "We put his jersey in the dugout and we'll keep putting it there until he's back.

Larry has done a lot of good for a lot of people."

Bagwell said the whole team felt uplifted by Dierker's upbeat attitude.

"Dierker can go to sleep knowing that we won a game," Bagwell said.

Biggio extended his major league-leading total to 29 doubles. Twenty of his last 43 hits have been doubles.

"We were pretty upbeat after we got the news from Big and Baggy," Tim Bogar said. "That let us know that he was doing better. You could sense we felt some relief to hear that."

Everett went 4-for-5 and drove in a run in the Astros' four-run sixth.

Mike Hampton (8-2) won for the eighth time in his last nine decisions and extended his record to 4-1 against the Braves in the Astrodome.

He went seven innings and allowed three runs. "Larry was very much on our minds," Hampton said. "We tried to go out there and do what he told us to do win."

Trever Miller pitched 1 2-3 innings for his first save.

Bell, who hit the first grand slam of his career Sunday the game was suspended after Dierker collapsed with Houston ahead 4-1 had another chance with the bases loaded in the first inning against Odalis Perez (4-3).

Biggio doubled, Ricky Gutierrez walked and Bagwell was intentionally walked. Bell's grounder scored Biggio and Richard Hidalgo hit a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.

Bell had another bases-loaded situation in the four-run sixth and this time he hit a two-run single to left field.

Hidalgo and Everett had run-scoring singles in the inning, giving the Astros an 8-3 lead.

Javy Lopez hit Hampton's first pitch of the second inning for a homer and Andruw Jones had a run-scoring double in the fourth. Lopez added an RBI double in the eighth off Jay Powell.

"I thought it was a heart attack," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I'm like everyone else, I want him to pull through. He's not out of the woods yet, with them operating on his brain."

Hampton's grounder in the second and Biggio's second double made it 4-2 in the fourth.

"I don't know him well, but I know he's a good guy," Braves outfielder Brian Jordan said.

"I think everyone in the league said their prayers for him. I hope everything will work out all right for him."

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