Berkman's Blast Sinks Phillies Early

The Wild Card Showdown has begun in Philadelphia and it didn't start well for the home team. The Astros went to 4-0 against the Phillies this season and grabbed a half-game lead in the National League Wild Card Standings. Lance Berkman and the Houston Astros bullpen were the stars of the game.

The Astros clubhouse looked like a hospital emergency room Monday night, but at least for Houston, they were now in first place in the Wild Card standings.

Andy Pettitte was getting care for his sore foot, hurting from a Brett Myers' line drive that glanced off his foot. Pettite would last 5 2/3 innings before exiting with a 4-0 lead and eventually picking up the win to go 14-9 on the season.


Lance Berkman was icing down both knees after the game in which he smashed a three-run first inning homerun to give Houston an early lead that would stand up to a Phillies' challenge. The shot was Berkman's 17th of the season and he has now homered in three straight games.

Then, there was Morgan Ensberg, who left the game with a bruised hand that he suffered when he was hit by a pitch in the third inning. Ensberg stayed in the game for a couple more innings, but left after striking out in the fifth. X-Rays on Ensberg's hand were negative and he's listed as day-to-day.

The win put Houston a half-game ahead of Philadelphia and one game ahead of Florida in the Wild Card Standings. It was Houston's tenth consecutive win over the Phillies. Washington beat Florida to stay 1 1/2 games behind Houston.

Pettitte lowered his ERA to 2.42 and has allowed three earned runs or less in 15 straight starts. He has given up one run or less in 11 of those outings. The Astros believe that Pettite will be able to make his next start.

Dan Wheeler escaped a jam with the bases loaded in the seventh, and Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his 33rd save, although he gave up one run and had the tying run at third and the winning run at second before getting the final out.

Kenny Lofton, who led off the ninth with an infield single, scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-3 with two outs. Lidge then walked Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins doubled into the right-field corner to put runners on second and third. Lidge struck out pinch-hitter Endy Chavez to end the game.

"We had a chance at the end, but couldn't get it done," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies cut it to 4-1 on an RBI single by Mike Lieberthal off Chad Qualls in the seventh. Tomas Perez then singled to load the bases and chase Qualls with one out. Mike Gallo entered and struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Howard. But Gallo walked Rollins to force in the second run.

Wheeler relieved and retired pinch-hitter Michael Tucker on a hard grounder to second to leave the bases full.

A fielding error by third baseman David Bell allowed Willy Taveras to reach safely to start the game. Taveras stole second and scored when Ensberg singled to left after Craig Biggio walked.

Berkman followed with his liner deep into the right-field seats, giving the Astros a 4-0 lead.

Myers allowed four runs - three earned - and five hits in seven innings. He struck out six and retired the last ten batters he faced.

"I was trying to keep us in the game so we can rally," Myers said. "We showed a lot of heart coming back."

The Phillies haven't beaten the Astros since a 3-1 victory in Houston on May 18, 2003.

The two teams square off again Tuesday night in Philadelphia with Jon Lieber (13-12, 4.67) going against Roy Oswalt (16-11, 2.91).

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