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It was Friday the 13th. It was in the chilly, inhospitable climate of Philadelphia. It was an early-season game between two losing ballclubs. But the 3-5 Astros prevailed over the 2-7 Phillies, providing a big night for two players.
Roy Oswalt, the ace of the Houston pitching staff for much of the decade, was one win away from a milestone as he took the mound on April 13th at Citizens Bank Park before a bundled crowd of 44,336. The game began in 40-degree weather with a 20-mph wind blowing in from left field.
The night did not start well. Three walks and three singles, two of them infield hits, put Oswalt behind, 3-0, in the first inning. Carlos Lee made a dent with a leadoff homer against future Astro Brett Myers in the second. In the third, Brad Ausmus spanked a leadoff double down the right field line. Two outs were followed by two walks before Lee cracked a 1-0 pitch into the seats in left-center for a grand slam homer and a 5-3 Houston lead.
In the fourth, two more walks and a bunt by Oswalt led Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to replace Myers with Jon Lieber. After Craig Biggio lined out, Morgan Ensberg turned on Lieber's 1-0 offering and drilled it into the left field seats for a three-run homer, boosting the margin to 8-3.
On a normal night, that would be plenty of runs for Roy. In the bottom of the fourth, however, he walked Rod Barajas then Lieber bunted into a force out. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino singled to load the bases. A weak grounder to short plated one run and a single by Ryan Howard plated another. Now it was 8-5.
In the fifth, two walks and a force out put a runner at third base when Oswalt was charged with a balk. That drew the Phillies back within two. Oswalt finished the inning but left with an un-Oswalt-like six earned runs allowed on seven hits and six walks.
Brad Lidge and Rick White held the Phillies in check the next two innings but the eighth was dicey. Lefthander Trever Miller entered, allowing a walk and two singles but was bailed out when right fielder Luke Scott threw a strike to Ausmus at the plate that nailed Victorino. Chad Qualls came in to induce a double play bouncer from Wes Helms that killed the threat.
The Astro hitters had also cooled off in the Pennsylvania chill until Lee bashed a homer into the bushes in dead center for his third home run of the night. The jolly Panamanian slugger who had signed a $100 million, six-year contract in the off-season now had the first three-homer game of his nine-year career. The 31-year-old outfielder drove in six of Houston's nine runs.
Dan Wheeler struck out the side in the ninth to seal the 9-6 victory and notch his second save of the young season.
For Oswalt, it was his 100th career victory. He was the eighth Astro to win that many in a Houston uniform. The three-time All-Star from Mississippi would retain his ace status for the rest of the decade.
Postscript: Roy Oswalt reached 143 victories with Houston, one shy of the franchise record set by Joe Niekro. He was dealt at the trade deadline in 2010 to Philadelphia in a rebuilding move. He joined Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to give the Phillies one of the most star-studded rotations in baseball history but they did not win a Worlds Series in the two years Oswalt was there. His career finished up with two lackluster seasons with the Rangers and Rockies, finishing with a 163-102 career mark and a 3.36 ERA.
Lee completed most of that six-year contract in Houston, batting .286 with 113 homers and 533 RBIs. He refused a trade to the Dodgers but agreed to a 2012 deal that sent him to the Miami Marlins in return for third base prospect Matt Dominguez. In 14 overall seasons, he hit .285 with 358 homers and 1363 RBIs.
Ensberg: Three-run poke
Lee: Three homers, six RBIs
The Phillies pursued Alfonso Soriano - even made him an offer - before the Cubs made a $126 million competing offer that made David Montgomery do a spit-take in the Penn Club. There was another power-hitting outfielder of significant talent on the free-agent market. His name was Carlos Lee, a guy who had four straight 30-plus homer seasons, averaged 110 RBIs during those four seasons and hit over .300 in two of those seasons. And the Phillies had absolutely no interest in Carlos Lee. Privately, they thought his defense was too much of a liability and that his big frame would break down in the back end of a long-term contract.
Those long-term concerns had zero impact on the short-term misery Lee caused the Phillies Friday night. Lee signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the Astros, and he earned a nice hunk of that change at Citizens Bank Park when he hit three home runs, including a grand slam, to carry his struggling team to a 9-6 victory over the Phils. The Phillies (2-8) are trying mightily to catch the Nationals (2-9) for the worst record in baseball, and the National League East rivals are battling loss for loss in that Bizzaro-world quest.
On this night, the Phils wasted a strong first-inning performance by the hitters, who figured out a way to score three runs on Astros ace Roy Oswalt and force him to burn 46 pitches in the opening frame. Unfortunately for the Phils, Brett Myers didn't come close to protecting the rare gift that his hitters delivered. Charlie Manuel named Myers his opening-day starter this spring on the premise that the headstrong right-hander had shown growth in maturity and shrinkage in waistline.
While Myers remains trim of body, he seemed to regress from the standpoint of poise in his third start of the season. Myers took a 3-1 lead into the top of the third inning when, with two outs and a runner on second, home-plate umpire Greg Gibson called a close pitch to Morgan Ensberg ball four. It was clear that Myers didn't like the call. He stalked around the mound for a while, then walked Lance Berkman to load the bases for Lee - a guy who, the last time Myers saw him, was taking a home-run trot in the second inning.
This time Lee broke out his grand-slam trot, as his towering drive to left fell into the second row of seats to put the Astros on top, 5-3. From there, Myers was fried. He got out of the third inning, but started the fourth with back-to-back walks. He got the hook after Oswalt moved the runners with a bunt, and Jon Lieber entered for a long-relief appearance. However, after snagging a line drive for the second out Lieber served up a three-run homer to Ensberg - who entered the game with no homers and one RBI this season.
The Phils scrapped for two runs in the bottom of the fourth and another in the fifth, but the pivotal moment came in the bottom of the eighth when, down 8-6, they had the tying runs on base with no outs and Ryan Howard at the plate. Howard worked a 3-0 count against scared-senseless southpaw Trever Miller, then smoked a single to right. Shane Victorino tried to score from second, but was nailed at the plate by a strong throw from right fielder Luke Scott. Victorino tried to collide with catcher Brad Ausmus, but replays showed that he would have been better served attempting an evasive slide.
That sucked the life out of the team. Wes Helms followed with an inning-ending double-play grounder. In the top of the ninth, Lee hit his third homer off long-ball machine Ryan Madson to give newly-crowned Houston closer Dan Wheeler an insurance run. He didn't need it, striking out the side to end it.
NOTES The Astros had to shuffle their rotation for the weekend when right-hander Jason Jennings returned to Houston with an inflamed elbow. Woody Williams will move up a day and pitch tonight's game, and Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch Sunday. Of course, the series finale might not take place since a severe nor'easter storm is expected to batter the area with heavy rain and high winds that day. According to Manuel, he will back up his rotation a day if Sunday is a wash and Freddy Garcia will make his Phillies' debut Monday against the Mets. ..Craig Biggio's sixth-inning double was the 641st of his career, putting him in sole possession of eighth place on the all-time list. Five more and he'll tie Carl Yastrzemski for seventh. Biggio needs 61 more hits for 3,000 in his career. ..Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard visited the Phillies before the game, took some feeble swings in the batting cage and swapped "Howard" jerseys with Ryan Howard.
Game Played on Friday, April 13, 2007 (N) at Citizens Bank Park HOU N 0 1 4 3 0 0 0 0 1 - 9 8 1 PHI N 3 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 - 6 11 0 BATTING Houston Astros AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Biggio 2b 5 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 Wheeler p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Ensberg 3b 4 2 1 3 1 0 0 3 Berkman 1b 2 1 0 0 3 2 6 2 Lee lf 5 3 3 6 0 0 3 0 Scott rf 4 0 1 0 1 1 2 1 Burke cf,2b 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 Everett ss 3 1 0 0 1 1 3 3 Ausmus c 3 2 1 0 1 2 11 0 Oswalt p 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 Palmeiro ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Lidge p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 White p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Lamb ph 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 Miller p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Qualls p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Lane cf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Totals 32 9 8 9 8 9 27 12 FIELDING - DP: 1. Ensberg-Biggio-Berkman. E: Everett (4). BATTING - 2B: Ausmus (2,off Myers); Biggio (4,off Geary); Burke (5,off Alfonseca). HR: Lee 3 (4,2nd inning off Myers 0 on 0 out,3rd inning off Myers 3 on 2 out,9th inning off Madson 0 on 2 out); Ensberg (1,4th inning off Lieber 2 on 2 out). SH: Oswalt (2,off Myers). GDP: Burke (1,off Lieber); Scott (2,off Geary). IBB: Lamb (1,by Alfonseca). Team LOB: 5. BASERUNNING - SB: Everett (1,2nd base off Myers/Barajas); Burke (2,3rd base off Alfonseca/Barajas). Philadelphia Phillies AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Rollins ss 5 1 2 0 0 2 2 5 Victorino rf 5 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 Utley 2b 2 1 0 1 2 0 2 3 Howard 1b 4 1 2 1 1 1 8 1 Helms 3b 5 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 Werth lf 4 0 0 0 1 4 1 0 Rowand cf 4 1 2 1 1 1 3 0 Barajas c 3 0 1 1 2 1 9 0 Myers p 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Lieber p 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 Dobbs ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Geary p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Burrell ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Alfonseca p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Madson p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Totals 36 6 11 5 7 10 27 9 FIELDING - DP: 2. Rollins-Howard, Utley-Rollins-Howard. BATTING - HBP: Utley (3,by Lidge). GDP: Helms (2,off Qualls). Team LOB: 11. PITCHING Houston Astros IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP Oswalt W(2-0) 5 7 6 6 6 6 0 28 Lidge 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 5 White 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 Miller 0.1 2 0 0 1 0 0 3 Qualls 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Wheeler SV(2) 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 Totals 9 11 6 6 7 10 0 44 BK: Oswalt (1). HBP: Lidge (1,Utley). Inherited Runners - Scored: Qualls 2-0. . Philadelphia Phillies IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP Myers L(0-2) 3.1 3 7 7 5 4 2 18 Lieber 1.2 2 1 1 1 0 1 7 Geary 2 1 0 0 1 2 0 7 Alfonseca 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 5 Madson 1 1 1 1 0 2 1 4 Totals 9 8 9 9 8 9 4 41 IBB: Alfonseca (2,Lamb). Inherited Runners - Scored: Lieber 2-2. . Umpires: HP - Greg Gibson, 1B - Charlie Reliford, 2B - Chad Fairchild, 3B - Larry Vanover Official Scorer: Jay Dunn Ejections: HOU Manager Phil Garner by Greg Gibson [Balk call] Time of Game: 3:36 Attendance: 44336
Starting Lineups Houston Astros Philadelphia Phillies 1. Biggio 2b Rollins ss 2. Ensberg 3b Victorino rf 3. Berkman 1b Utley 2b 4. Lee lf Howard 1b 5. Scott rf Helms 3b 6. Burke cf Werth lf 7. Everett ss Rowand cf 8. Ausmus c Barajas c 9. Oswalt p Myers p
ASTROS 1ST: Biggio flied to left; Ensberg flied to center; Berkman was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Phillies 0.
PHILLIES 1ST: Rollins struck out; Victorino grounded out (shortstop to first); Utley walked; Howard walked [Utley to second]; Helms singled to right [Utley scored, Howard to third]; Werth walked [Helms to second]; Rowand singled to shortstop [Howard scored, Helms to third, Werth to second]; Barajas singled to shortstop [Helms scored, Werth to third, Rowand to second]; Myers struck out; 3 R, 3 H, 0 E, 3 LOB. Astros 0, Phillies 3.
ASTROS 2ND: Lee homered; Scott grounded out (second to first); Burke struck out; Everett struck out; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Phillies 3.
PHILLIES 2ND: Rollins singled to left; Victorino flied to left; Utley forced Rollins (first to shortstop); Howard struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 1, Phillies 3.
ASTROS 3RD: Ausmus doubled to right; Oswalt struck out; Biggio grounded out (second to first) [Ausmus to third]; Ensberg walked; Berkman walked [Ensberg to second]; Lee homered [Ausmus scored, Ensberg scored, Berkman scored]; Scott walked; Burke lined to center; 4 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Phillies 3.
PHILLIES 3RD: Helms grounded out (shortstop to first); Werth struck out; Rowand flied to left; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Phillies 3.
ASTROS 4TH: Everett walked; Everett stole second; Ausmus walked; Oswalt out on a sacrifice bunt (first to second) [Everett to third, Ausmus to second]; LIEBER REPLACED MYERS (PITCHING); Biggio lined to pitcher; Ensberg homered [Everett scored, Ausmus scored]; Berkman walked; Lee flied to right; 3 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 3.
PHILLIES 4TH: Barajas walked; On a bunt Lieber forced Barajas (pitcher to shortstop); Rollins singled to right [Lieber to second]; Victorino singled to left [Lieber to third, Rollins to second]; Utley forced Victorino (shortstop to second) [Lieber scored, Rollins to third]; Howard singled to right [Rollins scored, Utley to third]; Helms flied to right; 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 5.
ASTROS 5TH: Scott singled to right; Burke grounded into a double play (shortstop to first) [Scott out at second]; Everett grounded out (shortstop to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 5.
PHILLIES 5TH: Werth struck out; Rowand walked; Barajas walked [Rowand to second]; DOBBS BATTED FOR LIEBER; Dobbs forced Barajas (first to shortstop) [Rowand to third]; Oswalt balked [Rowand scored, Dobbs to second]; Astros Manager Phil Garner ejected by HP umpire Greg Gibson; Rollins struck out; 1 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
ASTROS 6TH: GEARY REPLACED DOBBS (PITCHING); Ausmus was called out on strikes; PALMEIRO BATTED FOR OSWALT; Palmeiro struck out; Biggio doubled to right; Ensberg popped to first; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
PHILLIES 6TH: LIDGE REPLACED PALMEIRO (PITCHING); Victorino flied to right; Utley was hit by a pitch; Howard flied to left; Helms singled to shortstop [Utley to third (error by Everett)]; Werth struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
ASTROS 7TH: Berkman walked; Lee popped to first; Scott grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first) [Berkman out at second]; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
PHILLIES 7TH: WHITE REPLACED LIDGE (PITCHING); Rowand singled to left; Barajas grounded out (third to first) [Rowand to second]; BURRELL BATTED FOR GEARY; Burrell grounded out (third to first) [Rowand to third]; Rollins grounded out (second to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
ASTROS 8TH: ALFONSECA REPLACED BURRELL (PITCHING); Burke doubled to left; Burke stole third; Everett grounded out (shortstop to first); Ausmus was called out on strikes; LAMB BATTED FOR WHITE; Lamb was walked intentionally; Biggio forced Lamb (shortstop to second); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
PHILLIES 8TH: MILLER REPLACED LAMB (PITCHING); Victorino singled to center; Utley walked [Victorino to second]; Howard singled to right [Victorino out at home (right to catcher), Utley to third]; QUALLS REPLACED MILLER (PITCHING); Helms grounded into a double play (third to second to first) [Howard out at second]; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 8, Phillies 6.
ASTROS 9TH: MADSON REPLACED ALFONSECA (PITCHING); Ensberg flied to center; Berkman struck out; Lee homered; Scott struck out; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 9, Phillies 6.
PHILLIES 9TH: WHEELER REPLACED BIGGIO (PITCHING); BURKE CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING 2B); LANE REPLACED QUALLS (PLAYING CF); Werth struck out; Rowand was called out on strikes; Barajas was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 9, Phillies 6.
Final Totals R H E LOB Astros 9 8 1 5 Astros 6 11 0 11