Last night’s game featured the last two MVPs of the league, a pair of fantastic pitching performances, a guy some people think has a shot to win the triple crown this season and a hill with a flag pole in it in the middle of center field. But Hunter Pence stole the show. The Astros’ young outfielder Pence pounded a pair of home runs, driving in two of the four runs the Astros would need to win the game. He added a brilliant, game-saving defensive play in right field with the Phillies threatening to tie the game with two outs in the ninth.
A lot of things made the difference in a one-run game for the Phils. Shane Victorino struck out with a man on third and one out in the eighth. Ryan Howard should have but didn’t make a defensive play at first in the seventh that would have prevented Houston to score their fourth run.
Utley and Howard combined to go 0-for-7 with a walk and left eight men on base.
The Phillies lost to the Houston Astros last night, falling 4-3 to drop to 27-23. The teams have split the first two games of the four-game set.
Adam Eaton got the start for the Phillies and was very good. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and two home runs. He struck out two.
He threw a 1-2-3 first and a 1-2-3 second.
Ty Wigginton doubled to start the third, but Eaton got the next three hitters on ground balls to turn Houston away.
Miguel Tejada singled with one out in the fourth, but Eaton got Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee on fly balls to end the inning.
Pence homered down the line in right to start the fifth, tying the game at 1-1. Wigginton followed with a single before Eaton got JR Towles on a fly ball to left for the first out. The pitcher Brandon Backe was next and he put down a bunt between the mound and first base that nobody fielded. Backe had a single and Wigginton moved to second. Bourn hit a ball hard to second, which was about the only way the Phils were going to get a double-play given his speed. They turned it nicely to end the inning.
Eaton walked Berkman with one out in the sixth, but got Lee to fly to left to end the inning.
Eaton started the seventh with the game still tied at 1-1. Pence led off and Eaton got behind him 3-0 before Pence absolutely crushed a ball out to left field, putting Houston up 2-1. Towles singled with one out in the inning and Backe bunted him to second for the second out. Bourn hit the first pitch of his at-bat under the glove of Howard at first and into right field. Towles scored to make it 3-1 and Bourn went to second on the throw home. Howard should have made the play at first to end the inning. Kaz Matsui grounded to second for the third out.
Madson pitched the eighth after throwing one pitch the night before. With one out, Berkman tripled into the right field corner. Lee followed with a fly ball to right deep enough to score Berkman and put Houston up 4-1. Pence struck out for the third out.
Critical run allowed by Madson in the eighth. It proved to be the difference in the game.
Very nice start for Eaton against a good-hitting team in a good place to hit. Madson threw 13 pitches.
The Phillies’ lineup against righty Brandon Backe went (1) Rolllins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Jenkins (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Victorino in center against the righty and he probably will be for a while. Werth hit the DL with his strained oblique and the Phils called up TJ Bohn. Jenkins in right and Ruiz behind the plate. The plan had apparently been to give Burrell two days off in a row with the Phils seeing two righties to start the series — if that was the plan it was scrapped, either because of the pinch-hit home run for Burrell on Thursday night or the injury to Werth.
Victorino singled with one out in the first, but Utley hit a line drive to second and Victorino was doubled off first to end the frame.
With one out in the second, Burrell hit the first pitch of his at-bat out to left to put the Phils up 1-0. Feliz drew a walk with two outs, but Ruiz grounded to short for the third out.
With one out in the third, Rollins and Victorino singled back-to-back. It put men on first and second with one out for Utley and Utley grounded to second, moving the runners to second and third with two down for Howard. Howard struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch.
More problems for the middle of the order as Utley and Howard can’t drive in a run after the Phils put men on first and second with one out.
The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
With the game still tied at 1-1 in the seventh, Burrell led off and ripped a ball ticketed for the left-field corner. Wigginton made a nice play at third to take a hit away from him. Jenkins and Feliz struck out to end the inning.
Down 3-1 in the eighth, Dobbs hit for Eaton with one out and doubled to center. Rollins moved him to third with a single and righty Doug Brocail came in to pitch to Victorino. Rollins stole second, but just barely. He looked out to me. Not a fan of running there — it does put the tying run in scoring position, but the Astros would have had a tough time doubling up Rollins and Victorino. Victorino struck out, which was a huge second out for Houston. Brocail got behind Utley 2-0 before he walked him intentionally to load the bases for Howard. Howard grounded the first pitch of his at-bat to first to turn the Phils away.
Backe exited with one out in the eighth, having held the Phils to a run on six hits while striking out six.
Again the middle of the order had a chance for the Phils and were turned away. Victorino’s strikeout with one out and a man on third hurt a lot. He’s been hitting well, it will be interesting to see if the temporary loss of the possibility of losing his job to Werth will change that.
Down 4-1 in the ninth, Burrell led of and hit a ball in to left-center. Bourn took a nutty angle and turned it into a double as he let it get passed him. Burrell stayed in the game to run for himself with the Phils down three. Jenkins grounded to short and Burrell moved to third. Feliz was next. He got behind 1-2 and then smashed a ball back through the middle off the head of the Astros’ closer Jose Valverde. The ball bounced passed Tejada and into left field as Valverde lay face down on the field. I’ve seen the replay several times and it’s still not clear to me if the ball hit Valverde’s body before it hit his head or not. It looked exceedingly ugly either way, but Valverde was amazingly able to continue to pitch. With Feliz on first and the Phils down 4-2 with one out, Valverde’s first pitch since taking a line drive off his head was a 96 mile an hour fastball passed Ruiz. Ruiz got down 1-2 before he singled into center. It put men on first and second with one down and Bruntlett ran for Ruiz at first. Coste hit for Madson and struck out trying to check his swing for the second out. Rollins got down 0-2 before he smashed a ball into right for a double, but Pence made a brilliant play, racing to cut the ball off before it got to the wall. Bruntlett had to hold third, which was unfortunate because Berkman didn’t handle the throw from Pence cleanly. Outstanding play by Pence in right, but I think Bruntlett has to at least try score from first on a double with two outs. Victorino flew to center to end the game.
Valverde’s antics on the mound make him a tough guy to root for if he’s not on your team, but I was just astounded that he was willing and able to continue after Feliz crushed a ball off his head.
Rollins was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.
Victorino 2-for-5 with a strikeout and left four men on base.
Utley 0-for-3 with a walk and left three men on base.
Howard 0-for-4 with a strikeout and five men left on base. Another tough night for Howard and Utley.
Burrell was 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. He has hit the ball hard in the last two games after struggling most of the month.
Jenkins 0-for-4 and struck out twice. It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do in right field against a lefty with Werth out. My guess would be Taguchi or Bohn rather than Jenkins, but I’m hoping it’s Jenkins. We’ll see.
Feliz 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
Brett Myers (2-5, 5.76) faces righty Brian Moehler (1-1, 4.76) tonight. Moehler has appeared in eight games for the Astros, three of which, his last three, have been starts. As a starter this year he’s 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA on the season but has yet to get an out in the sixth inning. He was exclusively a reliever in 2007, but in 2006 he appeared in 29 games, 21 of which were starts, and finished with a 6.57 ERA. Over his career the 36-year-old has made 192 starts, most of which came with the Tigers, and thrown to 4.81 ERA in those starts. Lefties are hitting .382 against him this season, righties .286. Myers allowed three runs in six innings his last time out, which was Monday against the Nats. The Phillies are 0-5 in the last five games he’s started. Righties are hitting .331 against him for the season, which is going to make it tough to be successful unless you pitch in an all-lefty league. He’s allowed 15 home run in 59 1/3 innings.