Atlanta at Houston

Scoreboard
Atlanta020000010380
Houston «20100040x7121

Oswalt, Astros thump Braves to grab 2-1 series lead

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt stumbled and fell on his rear right in the middle of the field. Then he got up, reached back and put the Houston Astros in control of their first-round playoff series.

Not bad for a No. 3 starter.

Oswalt pitched into the eighth inning, striking out seven of the next 12 batters after his awkward spill, and the Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 7-3 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.

Houston can advance to its second consecutive NL Championship Series with a victory at home on Sunday. Brandon Backe will pitch for the Astros against Game 1 loser Tim Hudson, coming back on three days' rest.

Mike Lamb hit a tiebreaking homer in the third for the Astros, who after seven first-round exits from the playoffs are trying to eliminate the Braves in the division series for the second year in a row.

Craig Biggio, the 39-year-old second baseman who has spent his entire career in Houston and last week agreed to a contract for 2006, hit three doubles and scored twice. Morgan Ensberg, who had five RBI during a 10-5 win in the series opener, added a pair of RBI doubles to the delight of a boisterous home crowd.

"Last year we got to really see what our crowds were all about in this building," Biggio said. "They're your 10th guy."

Oswalt had already wasted a two-run lead when he fell on the mound in the middle of his windup for an 0-2 pitch to Marcus Giles in the third.

"My back foot slipped off the back of the rubber, and once my feet gave way, I started to throw the pitch anyway, and my mind said, change real quick, don't lob one up there and let the guy hit it out," Oswalt said. "I went ahead and took that one on the chin."

After getting up and shaking his head, Oswalt threw a 96 mph fastball that Giles swung at and missed.

That was Oswalt's first strikeout, and it got him back on track after a strange sequence in the second inning when the Braves tied the game.

"He's a tough cookie," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Losing pitcher Jorge Sosa, a reliever-turned-starter, gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings in his first postseason appearance. After joining the Braves' rotation in mid-June, he went 7-0 in 12 road starts.

By the time Oswalt left to a loud standing ovation with one out in the eighth and Giles on first, Houston led 7-2. Andruw Jones then hit an RBI double off reliever Dan Wheeler, but that was all the Braves got. Brad Lidge closed it out in the ninth.

The teams had about 14 hours to rest for Game 4, which is Sunday at 12:09 p.m. CDT.

Atlanta has won 14 straight division titles, but hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2001. The Braves will turn to Hudson in the hopes of sending the series back to Atlanta for a deciding game Monday night.

Oswalt might have been third in the Astros' playoff rotation, but the right-hander was the opening-day starter ahead of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in their hometown.

And it was also Oswalt on the mound last Sunday in the regular-season finale the Astros had to win to clinch the NL wild card outright. He beat the Chicago Cubs, making him the first pitcher since 2001-02 with consecutive 20-win seasons.

After needing only 12 pitches to get through the first three Atlanta hitters, and with a 2-0 lead, Oswalt endured a strange inning.

With Jones on after a leadoff single and Adam LaRoche with a 3-1 count, plate umpire Jeff Nelson signaled a balk on Oswalt's quick pitch. But, based on a seldom-used rule, the pitch was still live and ended up being ball four -- with no balk against Oswalt.

Francoeur's grounder to third started a double play that left him laid out on the ground. Ensberg's throw was off target, and Lamb was in a defensive position when he caught the ball up the first-base line. Lamb tagged out Langerhans, then shoved the runner aside with his left elbow.

Brian McCann blooped a 97 mph fastball into short left, right after swinging and missing badly at a slow curve, to drive in a run and make it 2-1.

Oswalt still thought he was out of the inning with the lead, so certain that he had thrown a third strike to Sosa that he was already hopping off the mound when Nelson called the pitch a ball. Sosa grounded the next pitch through the left side of the infield for a tying single.

McCann helped beat the Astros with a homer on Thursday night, the rookie catcher's three-run shot off Clemens in his first postseason at-bat putting the Braves ahead to stay in a 7-1 victory.

Biggio led off the first with a double and scored on Ensberg's first double. Jason Lane, after a foul ball hit so high that it struck the roof, had a sacrifice fly to put the Astros ahead 2-0.

Houston hit seven doubles, an NL division series record. Biggio's three matched the individual mark.

"As he goes, we go," manager Phil Garner said. "But somebody's got to complete the job and Ensberg has been doing that lately. If Ensberg gets a couple of doubles and nobody is on base, we don't have anything going on."

Lamb's homer to right with two outs in the third put Houston ahead to stay.

After Sosa was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, Biggio led off the bottom half with another double and the Astros went on to score four times off four Atlanta pitchers. The Houston outburst didn't end until Brad Ausmus grounded into a disputed double play, one that brought manager Phil Garner out to argue with first-base umpire Gary Cederstrom.

Notes

  • The roof at Minute Maid Park was closed, even though it was 71 degrees and a clear night when the game started. Garner said the goal is to make it loud -- and it was.
  • There was a crowd of 43,759, the largest in the stadium's six seasons.
 
Copyright 2015 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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Roy Oswalt allows six hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings while striking out seven in win.
 
Roy Oswalt allows six hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings while striking out seven in win. (AP)
 

Players of the Game
Houston

C. Biggio
AB 5
R 2
H 3
HR 0
RBI 0
Atlanta

A. Jones
AB 4
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 1
 

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Atlanta Braves
Rafael Furcal, SS5000003 .214
Marcus Giles, 2B5110031 .231
Chipper Jones, 3B4000011 .182
Andruw Jones, CF4031010 .636
Adam LaRoche, 1B3110102 .500
Jeff Francoeur, RF3000011 .300
Ryan Langerhans, LF2100112 .286
   a- Brian Jordan, PH-LF1000002 .000
Brian McCann, C4011010 .250
Jorge Sosa, P2011010 .500
   b- Kelly Johnson, PH1000000 .000
    Chris Reitsma, P0000000 .000
    John Foster, P0000000 .000
    Joey Devine, P0000000 .000
    Jim Brower, P0000000 .000
   c- Julio Franco, PH1010000 .250
    Pete Orr, PR0000000 .000
Totals353832912 
a-hit into fielder's choice for Langerhans in the 8th
b-grounded out for Sosa in the 7th
c-singled for Brower in the 9th
Batting
2B - Andruw Jones 2 (2, Oswalt, Wheeler)
RBI - Andruw Jones (4), Brian McCann (4), Jorge Sosa (1)
2-OUT RBI - Brian McCann (4), Jorge Sosa (1)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Sosa-Furcal-LaRoche, LaRoche-Furcal-Brower
Atlanta Braves
Jorge Sosa (L,0-1) 6733231 4.50
Chris Reitsma0222000 40.50
John Foster0111000 54.00
Joey Devine0211100 27.00
Jim Brower 2000010 0.00
IBB - Lamb by Jorge Sosa, by Ausmus, Lamb by Joey Devine
HBP - Berkman (by Jorge Sosa)
Pitches-Strikes - Jorge Sosa 90-56, Chris Reitsma 9-6, John Foster 1-1, Joey Devine 14-6, Jim Brower 21-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jorge Sosa 3-11, Jim Brower 2-2
Batters Faced - Jorge Sosa 27, Chris Reitsma 2, John Foster 1, Joey Devine 3, Jim Brower 5
Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B5230010 .500
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
Willy Taveras, CF5120012 .455
Lance Berkman, LF-1B3211021 .333
Morgan Ensberg, 3B4122001 .417
Mike Lamb, 1B2111200 .500
    Chris Burke, LF00000001.000
Jason Lane, RF3022000 .300
Adam Everett, SS3011003 .182
Brad Ausmus, C3000102 .167
Roy Oswalt, P3000003 .000
    Dan Wheeler, P0000000 .000
    Mike Gallo, P0000000 .000
   a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000000 .143
    Eric Bruntlett, 2B0000000 .000
Totals3271273412 
a-flied out for Gallo in the 8th
Batting
2B - Craig Biggio 3 (4, Sosa, Sosa, Reitsma), Willy Taveras (1, Sosa), Morgan Ensberg 2 (2, Sosa, Devine), Jason Lane (1, Sosa)
HR - Mike Lamb (1, Sosa)
SF - Jason Lane (1), Adam Everett (1)
RBI - Lance Berkman (1), Morgan Ensberg 2 (7), Mike Lamb (1), Jason Lane 2 (3), Adam Everett (1)
2-OUT RBI - Mike Lamb (1)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Ensberg-Lamb
E - Adam Everett (1, Wild throw)
Houston Astros
Roy Oswalt (W,1-0) 7.1633270 3.68
Dan Wheeler 0.1100000 6.75
Mike Gallo (H,1) 0.1000000 0.00
Brad Lidge 1100020 0.00
HBP - Francoeur (by Roy Oswalt)
Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 106-70, Dan Wheeler 9-6, Mike Gallo 4-2, Brad Lidge 13-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 8-6, Dan Wheeler 1-1, Mike Gallo 1-0
Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 30, Dan Wheeler 3, Mike Gallo 1, Brad Lidge 4
Game Information
Attendance - 43759
Game Time - 2:50
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Gary Cederstrom, Second Base - Eric Cooper, Third Base - Sam Holbrook