PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Clutch hits. Outstanding relief work.
All of that has kept Houston alive and confident about the NL
wild-card race. Philadelphia had none of it on its homestand and is
fading from the playoff picture.
Eric Bruntlett, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman homered during a
seven-run rally in the seventh inning and the Houston Astros turned
a game-changing triple play to beat Philadelphia 12-10 Thursday,
sending the Phillies to their seventh straight loss.
"We need wins more than anything, but this also shows how we
can come back," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "Emotions are
real high right now."
The Phillies led 7-2 in the fifth when Todd Pratt grounded into
a bases-loaded triple play, the first turned by Houston in 13
years. The Astros, hoping to hang on in the NL wild-card race,
swept the three-game series and won their fourth in a row and
finished 5-4 on their road trip.
Philadelphia finished a 1-9 homestand and gave manager Larry
Bowa another reason to worry about his job a day after general
manager Ed Wade declined to give him an endorsement.
The Phillies matched a team record for most losses on a
homestand -- they went 1-9-1 in 1941 at Connie Mack Stadium. The
Phillies were coming off a 5-1 end to a West Coast trip, making the
collapse even more puzzling.
"Nobody in their right mind thought we'd go 1-9 at home,"
losing pitcher Roberto Hernandez said.
Chad Qualls (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless sixth and Brad
Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 17 chances.
Hernandez (2-4), the most maligned pitcher by the Philly
faithful, heard the boos cascade down after Berkman's homer tied it
Hernandez left with his head down to a louder, angrier chorus of
boos after walking Mike Lamb and allowing a single to Morgan
Ensberg. Rheal Cormier relieved and promptly gave up a three-run
shot by Bruntlett.
"It's nice to win three in a row here and this was a huge win
for us," Bruntlett said. "They're all huge now. That was a
momentum swinger for us."
The Phillies bullpen has been weakened without setup man Ryan
Madson and closer Billy Wagner. Neither are expected back soon.
Both could have been used on the homestand -- the Phillies lost five
games with a lead in the seventh inning.
"It doesn't matter who we bring in," a glum Bowa said. "It
gets demoralizing when you do put up runs and they come right
Bowa had another simple explanation for the bullpen's fizzle: An
overworked staff clinging to close leads in a homer-friendly park.
"I don't think anyone's going to admit it, but the park is in a
lot of pitcher's heads," he said.
Bowa also said he had no inkling his job was on the line after a
pregame chat with Wade.
Thome earlier hit his 36th homer for the fading Phillies.
Abreu gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead with a two-run double in the
third off Carlos Hernandez. Thome followed with a two-run shot that
just sneaked inside the right-field foul pole.
Lou Collier hit a solo shot to left and Bell added an RBI single
in the fifth to make it 7-2.
The Phillies could have broken open the game in the fifth,
chasing Hernandez and loading the bases with no outs when reliever
David Weathers hit Marlon Byrd with a pitch.
Pratt followed with a grounder to Ensberg, who stepped on third
base and threw to Kent. The second baseman's relay to Lamb
completed the Astros' first triple play since Aug. 4, 1991.
"I'm just trying to make contact," Pratt said. "I'm not the
fastest runner. It set up perfectly."
Lamb led off the second with a double and later stole home as
part of a double steal.
Houston RHP Roger Clemens received treatment and will test
out his strained right calf Friday. ... Houston had its first steal
of home since Jeff Bagwell against Pittsburgh on Aug. 18, 2001. ...
Collier hit his first homer since Sept. 6, 2001, off Houston's
Shane Reynolds. ... Marlon Anderson was the last Phillies player to
hit into a triple play on Sept. 3, 2002, against Montreal.