ASTROS RELIEVER TAKES LINE DRIVE TO THE HEAD: In a frightening and all-too-familiar scene, Houston reliever Billy Wagner was hit in the head by a line drive and taken off the field on a stretcher in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night in the Astros' 9-8 loss in 11 innings to Arizona in Phoenix.

Wagner never lost consciousness and his vital signs were OK when he left the ballpark, Diamondbacks doctors said. Wagner was taken to a neurological center for further tests.

Wagner barely had time to react to Kelly Stinnett's liner, 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 Ball-park.

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.

Arizona's Matt Williams, who had moved from first to second on Stinnett's single, was among the first players to reach Wagner. The game was delayed about 15 minutes while Wagner was treated and reliever Jay Powell warmed up.

Wagner is Houston's closer and was trying for his second save in two days and 23rd of the season.

TEMPORARY TWINS SOLUTION: Someone finally has given the Minnesota Twins a reason to stay for at least a few more seasons. Whether they will accept remains to be seen.

The agency that runs the Metrodome offered Wednesday to drop a lawsuit against the Twins and help them make more money for up to four years if they agree to look for a buyer who would keep them in Minnesota.The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission's plan wouldn't solve the Twins' stadium problems, but it would buy time as the Legislature struggles with the question of whether to build a new ballpark.

"This is going to be a stop-gap solution," said Bill Lester, the commission's executive director. "Long-term they're not going to be able to reach a point where they're competitive in the Metrodome."

The Twins, claiming $26.4 million in losses in 1995-97 and expecting at least $10 million more this season, have said they will exercise an escape clause in their lease that will allow them to leave after this season.

They are threatening to move to Charlotte, N.C., and officials there have given the team until early August to decide whether it will move for the 1999 season.

Baseball's owners, who would have to approve a move, are believed to have told Twins owner Carl Pohlad they might back the sport's first franchise relocation in 27 years.

RBI RECORD DISPUTED: Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers may break major league baseball's RBI record. A baseball historian is trying to change the mark before the power-hitting outfielder does.

Clifford Kachline, a former historian with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, says the RBI record currently on the books - 190 by the Chicago Cubs' Hack Wilson in 1930 - is one off, citing an official scorekeeper's mistake.

Kachline claims a scorekeeper shortchanged the Cubs slugger of an RBI during a game against Cincinnati on July 28, 1930. Researchers say that newspaper accounts verify the mystery RBI.

Kachline and other historians say they researched all off Wilson's other RBIs that year the same way, and came up with 191. He will present the information to official record-keepers.

GRIFFEY TIRED OF HR TALK: Ken Griffey Jr. would rather discuss why he's not talking about his home runs than why he's hitting them at a record pace.

"I'm not talking about home runs. I want W's," Griffey said Wednesday before the Seattle Mariners played the Minnesota Twins. "When you talk about a majority of great players, they've been winners. I care more about my team than I do myself."

After hitting two homers Tuesday night to give him 39 for the season, one behind St. Louis' Mark McGwire, Griffey declined to discuss his performance. On Wednesday, he took exception to a newspaper article that called him uncooperative.

"Because I don't want to talk about myself, does that make me a bad person?" Griffey asked a group of reporters about 90 minutes after he finished batting practice.