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Ensberg's three homers propel Astros past Giants

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Morgan Ensberg had his best game as a major leaguer on the night the Astros were forced to deal with discouraging news about Jeff Bagwell's injury.

Shortly after finding out that Bagwell will be out at least three months, Ensberg hit three home runs and Brandon Backe pitched a four-hitter for his first major-league shutout, leading the Astros to a 9-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday night.

"I think it's going to affect the ballclub a great deal," Ensberg said. "I think a lot of people don't understand what Jeff Bagwell's presence in the lineup means to us."

Ensberg hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Jeff Fassero, a solo homer off Jeremy Accardo in the fifth, and another solo shot in the seventh off Jason Christiansen in the 11th three-homer game by an Astros player.

The last to do it had been Richard Hidalgo on Sept. 3, 2003, against Colorado.

"This certainly was my best game in the big leagues. I was getting the right pitches, seeing the ball well and getting the right swing," Ensberg said. "It was really a fun game."

Bagwell had a pair of three-homer games in 1999, but he has been robbed of much of his power because of the degenerative shoulder condition and has just three homers. He was placed on the disabled list Tuesday and the team announced Sunday that he will have surgery next month.

Bagwell's rehabilitation is expected to last three months. In the meantime, the Astros -- who entered with an NL-low .243 batting average -- could use more performances like Ensberg's.

"I hope we are a team that can take the momentum from tonight and start winning more games," Ensberg said. "That's what this is all about."

Backe (3-2) didn't allow an extra-base hit while throwing 114 pitches in the first shutout by a Houston pitcher since Roy Oswalt against Montreal last Aug. 6. Backe walked two and struck out six.

The Giants didn't have a hit until the fourth, when Omar Vizquel led off with a single. The closest San Francisco came to scoring was in the fifth, when Marquis Grissom walked and reached third with two outs on pinch-hitter Michael Tucker's single. But Backe got Jason Ellison to ground to third.

"Early on, I didn't feel that great, but as the game went on I started to realize that something really good could happen," Backe said. "It was the best game I've had and it was nice to get that shutout under my belt.

"I made some bad pitches, but I kept the ball down and I got away with them."

Fassero (0-1) pitched three innings and gave up five runs and five hits in his second start of the season.

After jumping ahead on Ensberg's home run in the first, the Astros increased their lead to 5-0 in the third on Craig Biggio's two-run homer, his seventh of the season and fourth in four games.

"He was definitely locked in tonight. He didn't miss anything," Fassero said of Ensberg. "The scouting report said to try to throw strikes on the outer part of the plate against him, but he just went the other way with them."

Backe had an RBI single in the fifth after Ensberg's second homer.

Houston manager Phil Garner missed Sunday's game with flulike symptoms. Cecil Cooper assumed his duties.

Notes

  • Houston's 5-17 record against the Giants at Minute Maid Park is its worst against any NL team since moving to the park in 2000.
  • Fassero is the third-oldest pitcher to start a game for the Giants at 42 years, 125 days. Warren Spahn was is the oldest at 44 years, 156 days in 1965, followed by Danny Darwin at 42 years, 310 days in 1998.
  • J.T. Snow returned to the Giants lineup after missing eight games with an intestinal disorder. Backe is 7-1 in Minute Maid Park.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Morgan Ensberg is greeted at home plate by Willy Taveras after his first homer of the night. (AP)
Morgan Ensberg is greeted at home plate by Willy Taveras after his first homer of the night. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

M. Ensberg
AB 4
R 3
H 4
HR 3
RBI 5
Houston

B. Backe
IP 9.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 2
K 6
 
San Francisco Giants
Jason Ellison, RF-CF4000002 .372
Omar Vizquel, SS3010100 .284
J.T. Snow, 1B3000012 .299
    Lance Niekro, 1B1000000 .250
Moises Alou, LF-RF4010012 .270
Ray Durham, 2B4010002 .250
Edgardo Alfonzo, 3B3000001 .310
Marquis Grissom, CF2000111 .202
    Jason Christiansen, P0000000 .000
    Scott Eyre, P0000000 .000
Mike Matheny, C3000011 .235
Jeff Fassero, P1000010 .000
    Scott Munter, P0000000 .000
   a- Michael Tucker, PH1010000 .213
    Jeremy Accardo, P0000000 .000
    Pedro Feliz, LF1000010 .294
Totals300402611 
a-singled for Munter in the 5th
Fielding
E - Ray Durham (2, misplayed grounder)
San Francisco Giants
Jeff Fassero (L,0-1) 3555222 3.86
Scott Munter 1210010 0.00
Jeremy Accardo 2322011 10.13
Jason Christiansen 1111011 4.05
Scott Eyre 1000010 3.45
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Fassero 68-42, Scott Munter 16-13, Jeremy Accardo 32-20, Jason Christiansen 21-12, Scott Eyre 14-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Fassero 4-3, Scott Munter 3-0, Jeremy Accardo 1-4
Batters Faced - Jeff Fassero 16, Scott Munter 6, Jeremy Accardo 9, Jason Christiansen 4, Scott Eyre 3
Houston Astros
Willy Taveras, CF4220101 .259
Orlando Palmeiro, RF4010011 .324
Craig Biggio, 2B4113001 .299
    Eric Bruntlett, 2B0000000 .000
Lance Berkman, LF3110112 .148
    Todd Self, LF0000000 .000
Morgan Ensberg, 3B4345000 .325
Jose Vizcaino, 1B4000021 .220
Adam Everett, SS4110002 .231
Brad Ausmus, C4000001 .222
Brandon Backe, P4111020 .235
Totals359119269 
Batting
2B - Adam Everett (10, Accardo)
HR - Craig Biggio (7, Fassero), Morgan Ensberg 3 (7, Fassero, Accardo, Christiansen)
SH - Orlando Palmeiro (3)
RBI - Craig Biggio 3 (22), Morgan Ensberg 5 (18), Brandon Backe (2)
2-OUT RBI - Morgan Ensberg 3 (10), Brandon Backe (1)
SB - Willy Taveras (14, 2nd base off Fassero/Matheny)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Everett-Vizcaino
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe (W,3-2) 9400260 4.97
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 114-78
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 7-13
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 32
Game Information
Attendance - 33633
Game Time - 2:35
Temperature - 85
Umpires - Home - Bill Welke, First Base - Tim Welke, Second Base - Brian O'Nora, Third Base - Gary Cederstrom