PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jeff Bagwell called it a must-win as the
Houston Astros' season dwindles to a precious few games. The
surprise was how they won it, with a bunch of young players coming
off the bench.
Eric Bruntlett doubled to start the 10th against Pirates closer
Jose Mesa (5-2) and scored on Lane's one-out double, his ninth
pinch-hit of the season. Houston stayed a game behind San Francisco
in the NL wild-card race. The Giants beat Arizona 5-2.
The Astros averaged more than nine runs while winning 12 in a
row entering the five-game Pittsburgh series, but won only once in
the first four games -- scoring only four runs in the three losses.
Bagwell and manager Phil Garner agreed the Astros couldn't go
into their three-game series against NL Central leader St. Louis
off four losses in Pittsburgh.
"We had to win and we found a way to win," Bagwell said.
"How many players did we use?" Garner said. "We had eight
extra guys and we used them all. I tried every way in the world to
pull another run out of there. It was important to win this game."
Biggio and Jeff Kent were out of the game following a number of
late-inning strategical moves when the Astros came back to win it.
"We used everybody, and it was fun to watch them," Bagwell
said. "They're all excited to be here, they've all got a lot of
energy and I'm sure it feels good to all of them to have
contributed to the win."
Roy Oswalt left with a 4-2 lead after seven innings and was in
position to become the NL's first 18-game winner, but the Pirates
scored twice against closer Brad Lidge (5-5), who had converted 21
of 24 save opportunities.
Bobby Hill's RBI single off Lidge in the eighth made it 4-3, and
Craig Wilson tied it leading off the ninth with his 27th homer, a
drive to center that was his 11th pinch-hit homer in four seasons.
He is 2-for-3 as a pinch-hitter this season, with both hits being
tying homers in the ninth. He also hit one Sept. 1 in a 5-2,
10-inning victory in Milwaukee.
"He's just phenomenal," manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The Astros trailed 2-0 and had only Kent's walk through six
innings against the left-handed Williams before breaking through
for two runs in both the seventh and eighth.
Singles by Biggio, Beltran and Bagwell gave Houston its first
run, and Berkman's sacrifice fly tied it before Williams was lifted
after seven innings. He struck out five and walked one and has
allowed only two runs in 13 2-3 innings in his last two starts.
"That's a tough right-handed lineup they've got over there, and
the third time around it (for Williams) is awfully tough,"
McClendon said. "But we came real close to winning four of five."
Mike Lamb singled to start the eighth against Brian Meadows and
moved up on Jason Alfaro's bunt. Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson then
threw wildly trying to get Lamb at third for a two-base error that
scored Lamb with the go-ahead run. Pinch-hitter Morgan Ensberg
followed with an RBI single.
Jason Bay had an RBI single in the third against Oswalt, giving
the rookie five RBI in two games. Oswalt gave up six hits but was
denied his fifth consecutive win.
^Notes:@ Williams, out of the majors for two years following
shoulder surgery, was coming off his first victory in 29 months. He
beat the Brewers 2-0 Tuesday, allowing two hits in 6 2-3 innings.
... Houston finished 12-5 against Pittsburgh. ... The Astros begin
the St. Louis series Tuesday. ... Despite losing three of five in
Pittsburgh, the Astros have won 22 of 28 and 15 of 20 overall. ...
The Pirates had won four of five after losing five straight. ...
Ensberg hasn't started in 16 games because of lower back spasms.