Morgan Ensberg hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth
inning Saturday night, leading the Astros over the Toronto Blue
Jays 6-3 for their fourth straight victory.
Lidge blew only his third save of the season and wasted another
strong start by Roger Clemens, but Ensberg's 14th homer gave the
Astros 10 wins in 15 games, as well as their first four-game
winning streak since the first week of the season.
"It's OK, we saved him tonight, but he's going to save us a lot
more times than we've save him," Astros manager Phil Garner said.
"He probably wasn't as sharp as he has been. His fastball was a
little up and they got on him quickly."
After wasting a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the
Astros got it back in the bottom half.
Chris Burke hit a one-out single and stole second. After Scott
Schoeneweis (2-2) intentionally walked Craig Biggio, Miguel Batista
came in and got Lance Berkman on a fly to center field before
Ensberg's homer on a 3-0 pitch.
"Phil (Garner) has talked to me so much about 3-0," Ensberg
said. "The credit goes to him. He talked to me so much about how I
can hurt a team at 3-0 with a green light. That was a pitch where
the swing worked with where the pitch was. It was a function of the
ball being in the right place."
Clemens allowed three hits in seven innings, and the Astros took
a 3-1 lead to the ninth. But Lidge's first blown save since May 24,
cost Clemens his 333rd victory.
" I definitely made some bad pitches," Lidge said. "I didn't
feel good about what I did, but I feel good about how the team came
back. I was definitely giving Morgan a hug for saving me."
Shea Hillenbrand started Toronto's rally off Lidge (2-2) with a
double to center. Eric Hinske singled him home, and after a
sacrifice by Ken Huckaby, Alex Rios got his second RBI of the game
with a single to left.
"We got to one of the best closers in the league and then we
gave it away to them in the ninth, it was a tough loss," Huckaby
said. "It was a cutter. You've got to tip your hat to Ensberg
because he went down and got it and drove it. That's just like
you're supposed to do."
At least Clemens reached a strikeout milestone.
Clemens finished with seven strikeouts and joined Nolan Ryan as
the only pitchers to surpass 4,400 career strikeouts. Clemens now
has 4,404, while Ryan is the all-time strikeout leader with 5,714.
Rios hit his fourth homer to start the fifth for the Blue Jays.
Facing the team he won Cy Young awards with in 1997 and '98,
Clemens started the game with a strikeout, walk and single by
Vernon Wells before he retired the next nine batters.
Clemens got the first two batters in the sixth and then walked
Hillenbrand and Hinske. He got Gregg Zaun swinging at a 95-mph
fastball to end the inning and then Zaun was ejected by home plate
umpire Ted Barrett when the two got into a heated exchange.
"For him to give up a couple of runs like that, obviously,
we're not used to that," Adam Everett said of Lidge. "The way
they got four hits off him. That's uncharted territory for him. But
when we can pick him up like that that's big for a ballclub."
Gustavo Chacin made his first start against the Astros and
quickly got into trouble. Willy Taveras hit his first pitch just
out of reach of diving right fielder Rios for a triple. Chris Burke
followed with a shot near the same spot for a sacrifice fly.
A two-out double by Everett gave Houston another run in the
fourth. Chacin intentionally walked Brad Ausmus to load the bases
and then got Clemens to fly out on a full-count fastball to end the
inning with a 2-0 deficit.
Lance Berkman hit an RBI single in the seventh.
Chacin pitched six innings, allowing seven hits and two earned
Clemens had a 41-13 record and 2.33 ERA in his two years
with Toronto. ... The Astros have agreed to terms with 15 of their
picks in the first-year player draft, including their second-round
selection, catcher Ralph Henriquez of Key West, Fla. ... The Blue
Jays are 7-6 when Chacin starts. Chacin has allowed four homers
this season, fewest among Toronto starters.