Astros Domination of Phils Sealed Their Fate

The Phillies need only look to their season series with Houston to figure out why they're starting their off-season and the Astros are moving on to the post-season. Had the Phillies won just one game of their six against Houston, it would be the Phillies readying for the playoffs. Here's a look at where it all went wrong.

Monday July 25 at Houston:

The Phillies were simply beat by Andy Pettite. Pettite pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and just one earned run along to way to up his record to 8-7 and drop his season ERA to 2.73. It didn't help that starter Cory Lidle (8-9, 4.63) gave up five homeruns - two each to Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman and one to Jason Lane. Considering that, it's surprising that the Phillies weren't beaten worse than the 7-1 final score.

Tuesday July 26 at Houston:

Jon Lieber pitched a gem, giving up one earned run over seven innings of work. He was simply outpitched by Roy Oswalt (14-8, 2.33), who threw a complete game, giving up just one earned run and striking out nine along the way. Ryan Madson (4-4, 3.95) gave up a homerun to Mike Lamb in the bottom of the ninth as the Phillies lost 2-1. Craig Biggio hit his 16th of the season off Lieber in the first inning.

Wednesday July 27 at Houston:

Vicente Padilla (5-9, 5.45) didn't exactly put on a clinic, but he made it through six innings, giving up three runs. For how he had been pitching, that wasn't all that bad. The bullpen threw two shutout innings, but the damage had been done as Houston beat the Phillies 3-2. Biggio didn't homer, but he did double and score a run to continue to be a thorn in the Phillies' side. Roger Clemens (9-4, 1.46) threw seven innings, giving up just two earned runs and Brad Lidge notched his 24th save of the year.

Monday September 5 in Philadelphia:

Good news, Craig Biggio went 0-for-3, but he did still score a run after reaching base on a walk. Lance Berkman hit a three-run shot off Brett Myers (12-7, 3.53) in the first as the Astros scored four times to take a 4-0 lead. From there, Myers settled in and threw seven innings without giving up any more runs. The Phillies scored twice in the seventh and pushed another run across in the ninth, but it was too little, too late as the Phillies lost 4-3. Andy Pettite (14-9, 2.42) got the win and the Phillies hit Brad Lidge, but he recorded his 33rd save of the year.

Tuesday September 6 in Philadelphia:

Craig Biggio hit a first inning homerun - his 19th - off starter Jon Lieber. Like Myers the day before, Lieber settled in and kept the Astros off the board and wound up giving up just that lone run over seven innings. Ryan Howard tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homerun in the fifth. The two teams went into the ninth tied only to see the Astros score a run off closer Billy Wagner (4-2, 1.69) in the ninth to win the game 2-1. Roy Oswalt (17-11, 2.84) threw eight strong innings and Lidge picked up his 34th save.

Wednesday September 7 in Philadelphia:

This is the one that really hurt. Instead of getting Roger Clemens, the Phillies faced Brandon Backe. After four innings, Backe was gone, having given up three earned runs along the way. The Astros got three strong relief innings from their bullpen before the Phillies jumped on Dan Wheeler for three runs in the eighth and took a 6-5 lead. Vicente Padilla was hit hard, giving up five runs over 5 1/3 innings, but the Phillies offense had seemed to bail him out. Ryan Madson and Ugueth Urbina gave the Phillies 2 2/3 innings of perfect pitching, leading to Billy Wagner in the ninth. Again, it was Craig Biggio - Wagner's best friend from his days with the Astros - who would do the damage with a three-run, two-out homerun off Wagner in the ninth. The blast gave the Astros an 8-6 lead and Lidge set down the Phillies with no trouble in the bottom of the inning, recording his 35th save. In all fairness to Wagner, a David Bell error - his 19th of the season - extended the inning and made all three runs unearned.

Who's to blame?

The players in the Phillies' starting lineup hit a combined .231 (39-169) against the Astros in 2005. Among the worst were Pat Burrell (1-for-18, .056), Mike Lieberthal (1-for-12, .083) and David Bell (3-for-22, .136). Bell also committed the key error that helped the Astros to their come from behind in the final game of the season between the two teams. Bobby Abreu (4-for-22, .182) and Chase Utley (4-for-21, .190) didn't help much either.

No, Wagner wasn't exactly dominant against his old team, but he doesn't completely deserve the scapegoat title that has been hung on him for the loss in the final game. He wound up 0-2, 4.50 against the Astros, giving up four hits, one walk and one strikeout in two innings of work against Houston. Vicente Padilla posted a 6.35 ERA against the Astros and that certainly didn't help.

The Phillies generally saw the best of the Astros pitching. In six games, they saw Andy Pettite, Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens five times. The only break they got was in the final game when Backe stepped in for Clemens. That's why that loss was so tough to swallow. The Phillies had the Astros on the ropes and let them off. Houston not only righted themselves, but dominated the Phillies and won the NL Wild Card, thanks in no small part, to their sweep of the season series.

Who's not to blame?

Ryan Howard hit two homeruns against Houston and finished hitting .350 (7-for-20) against the 'stros. He finished by going 4-for-8 (.500) over the final two games. By the time the Astros came to Philly, Jimmy Rollins had an 11 game hitting streak. He extended that to 14 in the series against Houston, going 5-for-14 (.357) in the series. Overall, Rollins hit .346 (9-for-12) on the season against Astros' pitching. Kenny Lofton hit .286 (4-for-14), playing in five of the six games, although one was just as a pinch-hitter. Jason Michaels and Todd Pratt only had seven at bats a piece against the Astros, but they both picked up three hits to finish with a .429 average against Houston.

Jon Lieber was awesome against Houston, but had nothing to show for it. In two starts, he got two no decisions, but threw 14 innings, giving up 11 hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. The end result was a 1.29 ERA against Houston.

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