Astros make it 11 straight over Phillies

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Eric Bruntlett's daring dashes on the base
paths seemed symbolic of a Houston Astros team making a hard charge
up the NL wild-card standings.

Jimmy Rollins' stumble around first base was only one of the
costly blunders that has the Philadelphia Phillies slipping in the

Bruntlett delivered as a pinch runner, stealing second and third
then scoring the go-ahead run on Jason Lane's RBI single in the
ninth inning to lift the wild-card leading Astros to a 2-1 victory
over the Phillies on Tuesday night.

"We made it happen tonight," Houston manager Phil Garner said.

The Astros moved one game ahead of Florida and 1½ games ahead of
Philadelphia in the wild-card standings with their 11th consecutive
win over the Phillies. The Phillies lost their fourth straight

Bruntlett's steals helped make a winner out of Roy Oswalt
(17-11), who struck out eight, allowed six hits and one earned run
in eight spectacular innings.

Brad Lidge worked the ninth for his 34th save.

With one out in the ninth, Lance Berkman was walked by former
Houston All-Star closer Billy Wagner (4-2). Bruntlett stole second
and third -- his fourth and fifth steals this year -- with huge
jumps, though catcher Todd Pratt seemed to have trouble getting the
ball out of his mitt each time.

Lane then ripped a single to left for a 2-1 lead. Charles Gipson
ran for Lane and tested Pratt again, stealing second, but was
thrown out trying to steal third, earning the battered catcher some
mock applause.

"Chances are you're not to going to string a few base hits
against him, so it's worth taking a little bit of a risk,"
Bruntlett said of Wagner.

Pratt had to change his mitt in the ninth, though he wasn't
blaming the equipment on his throwing woes. On Bruntlett's first
steal, Pratt said he had no shot at throwing him out. On
Bruntlett's second, Pratt said he simply double-clutched.

"It would have been nice to win both games, but if we continue
to play like this, we'll be right there," Pratt said.

The Astros should know how tough it is to beat Wagner, the lefty
with the 100 mph fastball who had five 30-save seasons with them.

"The last team I want to be beat by is Houston," he said.

It took some gutsy pitching from Oswalt in the eighth to keep
the Astros alive.

Rollins ripped what appeared to be a sure double to right to
open the eighth, but he missed first base, stumbled rounding the
bag and stayed put. He moved to second on a sacrifice and stayed
there after a strikeout.

Oswalt then intentionally walked Bobby Abreu and walked Pat
Burrell to load the bases. Ryan Howard, the sturdy slugger with a
flair for the dramatic, hit a chopper to second to end the threat.

"It was key there," Oswalt said. "It may have cost them."

The Phillies' 4-3 loss to Houston on Monday ended when Endy
Chavez struck out with runners on second and third.

The Astros go for the three-game sweep Wednesday night when they
send Brandon Backe (8-7) against Vicente Padilla (8-12).

"We damn sure need a win," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel

Oswalt dazzled through his first four economical innings,
retiring the first 10 batters and ending a two-on, two-out jam in
the fourth with a big, baffling curveball that Burrell futilely
flailed at for strike three.

The boo birds erupted as the fans continue to be frustrated with
a Phillies team that seems poised to make a serious playoff push
one week until it falls apart the next.

Their attitude briefly changed when Howard led off with the
fifth with his 14th homer, tying the score at 1.

Oswalt, though, pitched out of a tight spot in the seventh,
leaving two runners stranded after getting Pratt and pinch-hitter
Michael Tucker to fly out to center.

"When he got in the big jam, he got out of it," Garner said.

Craig Biggio's solo homer in the first gave Houston a 1-0 lead
and was the second straight game the Astros jumped on the Phillies
with a first-inning blast.

Philadelphia starter Jon Lieber settled down after the homer,
retiring 13 of 14 in one stretch into the sixth inning before Adam
Everett reached on a two-out infield single.

Lieber walked none, struck out four and gave up five hits in
seven innings. It was the eighth time in his last 10 starts (4-4,
two no-decisions) that he hasn't allowed more than two earned

Game notes
Houston LHP Andy Pettitte, who left Monday's game after he
was hit in the foot by a grounder, was fine and will not miss his
next start. ... Houston 3B Morgan Ensberg was not in the starting
lineup after leaving Monday's game with a bruised right hand.
Ensberg, who was hit by a pitch, was available to pinch hit. ...
Rollins extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games.