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Arizona 9, Astros 8, 11 Innings

July 16, 1998 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) _ In a frightening and all-too-familiar scene, Houston reliever Billy Wagner was hit in the head by Kelly Stinnett’s line drive and taken off on a stretcher in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night in the Astros’ 9-8 loss in 11 innings to Arizona.

Wagner never lost consciousness and his vital signs were all right when he left the ballpark, Diamondbacks doctors said. Wagner was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center for neurological tests.

Wagner sustained a lacerated ear canal. He was to undergo a CAT scan Thursday.

``I talked to him just before they put him in the ambulance,″ said his friend, Astros pitcher Mike Magnante. ``He just asked me to call his wife and tell her that he’s fine.″

Hampton’s wife, Sarah, is eight months’ pregnant with the couple’s first child.

``Everything so far has shown up OK,″ Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. ``We feel very fortunate so far. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed that all the other tests turn out normal. It’s obviously a very scary situation.″

Wagner barely had time to react to the line drive, raising his glove too late to stop the ball from knocking him flat. The ball caromed on the fly nearly to the third-base dugout as Wagner sprawled on the mound, lying on his back and his legs flopping.

The 26-year-old left-hander was talking to the trainers that rushed to him. More than a dozen players on both teams, along with an umpire, watched over Wagner as the crowd of 42,229 quieted at the Bank One Ballpark.

``His eyes were open, he was able to talk and make sense,″ Astros manager Larry Dierker said.

A medical team immobilized Wagner’s head and placed him on a stretcher before driving him off the field on a cart. The bruise on the left side of Wagner’s head had already swelled.

``It was an unfortunate thing. Hopefully, he’s doing well,″ Stinnett said. ``You always talk about guys hitting the ball up the middle. It’s part of the game.″

The Astros’ locker room was silent after the game, and starting pitcher Mike Hampton was crying.

``Who cares about the wins and losses?″ outfielder Derek Bell said. ``We just care about Billy Wagner right now.″

The accident was reminiscent of two scary incidents in the past two seasons.

Earlier this year, Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina had his nose broken and face bloodied by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar.

Last year, Arizona’s Willie Blair _ then with Detroit _ had his jaw broken when struck by a smash from Cleveland’s Julio Franco. The liner was clocked at 107 mph.

Blair declined comment after seeing Wagner’s injury.

Stinnett wound up scoring the winning run in the 11th on rookie Danny Klassen’s two-out single. The Diamondbacks had been 0-54 when trailing after eight innings before the victory.

Stinnett drew a one-out walk from Magnante (3-4) in the 11th and took second on David Dellucci’s single. Klassen hit a long drive that center fielder Carl Everett couldn’t get to with a diving try.

Alan Embree (3-0) was the winner.

Wagner relieved to start the ninth and Matt Williams led off with a single. One out later, Stinnett hit the single off Wagner’s head, moving Williams to second. Williams was among the first players to reach the mound to check on the injured pitcher.

When the game resumed, Jay Powell replaced Wagner and gave up an RBI double to pinch-hitter Karim Garcia that tied it at 8. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Powell escaped the jam.

The Diamondbacks got seven runs in four innings against Hampton. But an error by third baseman Williams led to five unearned runs for the Astros in the sixth, and Moises Alou’s 22nd homer tied it at 7 in the seventh.

Jay Bell, Travis Lee and Stinnett homered for Arizona.

Notes: With the temperature outside hitting a record 117 degrees, and with recent criticism from fans about the heat inside Bank One Ballpark, the air conditioner was cranked up and it was just 79 degrees on the field at gametime. ... Arizona’s streak of 81 games with an extra-base hit became the longest in the majors when Cleveland’s 91-game streak ended Wednesday. ... Houston’s Jeff Bagwell went 1-for-12 in the Arizona series and is 4-for-26 since the All-Star break. ... Hampton has a loss and two no-decisions since coming off the disabled list on July 3.