The Phillies seemed poised to repeat last night's dramatic comeback, trailing by one run heading into the ninth, with Pat Burrell due to bat first. Burrell tied the last game with a home run off Jose Valverde and it looked like history might repeat itself, but Astros manager Cecil Cooper had other ideas. Cooper bypassed Valverde and went instead to Doug Brocail. Brocail was able to do what Valverde wasn't, allowing only a pinch hit single to Jimmy Rollins (the first of his career), before striking out Greg Dobbs to end the game. It was only the eighth save of Brocail's 13 year career and it finished off a 2-1 Astros win.
Houston got on the board in the first inning, as former Phillie Michael Bourn made an immediate impact. Bourn led off with an infield single, stole second, and scored on a Carlos Lee double to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. However, Philadelphia followed suit in the bottom of the first, as Ryan Howard drove in Jayson Werth with an RBI single. Starters Roy Oswalt and Kyle Kendrick dominated until the fifth inning, when Bourn put a dent in the right field foul pole with his second home run of the season, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead.
As in yesterday's game, it was a pitcher's duel. This was a bit surprising, as both starters had gotten off to very slow starts. Oswalt came into the game sporting a 0-3 record and a 9.00 ERA, but performed to his lofty expectations, holding the Phillies to one run in seven innings. Meanwhile, after failing to get through the third inning in his last start, Kendrick pitched seven strong innings and surrendered only two runs. He walked only one batter, after walking six in his last disastrous outing, and struck out five.
Once again, the hits were few and far between for the Phillies. Burrell went 2-4, but was unable to get on base in the ninth, and no one else made much of an impact at the plate. There's no doubt that Rollins' return will inject some life into the offense, but at this point there's no telling when that will be. One has to suspect he's saving himself for the upcoming Mets series, but that's purely speculative.
Despite the loss, Kendrick's start is extremely encouraging. He had not inspired any confidence in his first two outings and it was beginning to look like last season's success was simply a fluke. Hopefully he can build on this start with some renewed confidence and bolster what is starting to look like a very strong Phillies rotation.
That said, the story of the game has to be Bourn. He scored both of Houston's runs; one with his blazing speed and the other with a surprising bit of power, and tonight that was all it took, as the Phillies' bats remained stagnant, even in the ninth inning.
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