Rewind: Giants vs Astros, Game #3

The Houston Astros entered the final game of a series with the San Francisco Giants needing a win to stay afloat in the National League Central race. In losing each of their previous four contests, the Astros found themselves one game back of the Chicago Cubs in the hunt for October. They sent out their best in ace right-hander Roy Oswalt to face off with San Francisco's Sidney Ponson, who looked to put the Giants ahead of Atlanta for the best record in the National League.

September 24, 2003 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Francisco 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 1
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 x 2 4 0

WP R. Oswalt (10-5) 8IP 3H 1R 1ER 0BB 6SO 1HR 2.97 ERA
LP S. Ponson (3-6) 7IP 4H 2R 2ER 4BB 2SO 0HR 3.71 ERA
S B. Wagner (44) 1IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 1SO 0HR 1.80 ERA

It was a game that lasted only two hours and eight minutes, and it evolved early into a pitcher's duel, with both Oswalt and Ponson working quickly and economically. Oswalt retired the first four batters he faced before Pedro Feliz became both the first baserunner and the first run of the game, crushing a 1-0 fastball into the left field stands for his fifteenth home run of the year and second of the series.

Down 1-0, the Astros picked their first hit of the game in the bottom of the second when former Giant Jeff Kent blooped a single into center field to lead off the inning. However, Lance Berkman came up and grounded the first pitch he saw right to second baseman Eric Young, who cleanly turned the 4-6-3 double play to erase the hit and clear the bases.

Oswalt and Ponson matched zero for zero through the next four innings, allowing only four baserunners combined. Oswalt allowed just one hit in that stretch, while Ponson gave up two walks and a hit but induced two double play balls to get himself out of the stretch.

And so the score stood at 1-0 through six innings, Feliz's second-inning home run the difference in the game. Oswalt gave up a long two-out single to Andres Galarraga in the seventh, but struck out Feliz to strand Galarraga at first and keep the Astros at a one-run deficit.

Ponson, who hadn't allowed a runner past first base through six, ran into trouble against the heart of the Houston lineup in the bottom of the inning. With two down and nobody on, Kent took a 2-2 changeup on the left arm and trotted down to first. Lance Berkman then smoked Ponson's 1-0 offering off the wall in left field for a double, putting runners at second and third for red-hot Richard Hidalgo. After bouncing the first pitch five feet in front of home plate, Ponson intentionally walked Hidalgo to load the bases for pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino, who replaced catcher Brad Ausmus. Vizcaino, 1-5 lifetime against Ponson, swung through the first pitch to fall behind in the count 0-1, but lined Ponson's next pitch into center field to knock in a pair. Hidalgo was thrown out at third on the play, ending the inning, but Vizcaino's single put Houston ahead with a 2-1 lead.

It was a lead that the Astros intended to hold.s Oswalt needed only seven pitches to retire the Giants' 6-7-8 hitters in order in the top of the eighth. After Scott Eyre and Felix Rodriguez kept the Astros scoreless in the bottom of the inning, closer Billy Wagner replaced Oswalt in the ninth. Wagner had a score to settle with the Giants, having given up three late-inning runs in the first game of the series to take the loss.

The save wouldn't come easy, as he found himself staring in at home run king Barry Bonds, pinch hitting for Rodriguez, to lead off the inning. He ran the count to 3-2 before striking Bonds out on a triple-digit fastball for the first out of the ninth. Wagner then retired Eric Young and the last hope for the Giants was Ray Durham, who hit a home run against him in Monday's game. Durham worked the count in his favor, but swung through a 3-1 fastball and then popped the seventh pitch of the at-bat into center field for Kent, who put it away to end the game and secure a much-needed victory for the Astros.

SFDugout's Players of the Game: Sidney Ponson and Pedro Feliz. Ponson, although he took the loss, pitched well enough to win and rebounded from three consecutive poor outings. He gave up two runs on just four hits and four walks through seven innings, throwing 83 pitches and three times getting a double play ball to help himself out of trouble. Feliz certainly did his part, picking up two of San Francisco's three hits, one of which left the yard for the Giants' lone run of the game.

Stephanie Moy is a diehard Giants fan, born and raised in San Francisco. She loves hearing feedback - good, bad, or otherwise - so if you're so obliged, contact her at

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