Phillies Can't Muster Any Offense, Get Swept by Astros

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Recap: Astros Finish Off Sweep, Beat Phillies 5-1

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Wandy Rodriguez stymied the Philadelphia hitters over seven innings and helped his own cause with an RBI single, as the Houston Astros beat the Phillies, 5-1, to complete a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park.

Rodriguez (10-12) struck out six and walked one. His lone mistake came in the sixth inning, when Chase Utley doubled home Jimmy Rollins.

Carlos Lee hit an RBI double in the first and added a solo home run off Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (8-7) in the third. Kendrick, a Houston native who was celebrating his 26th birthday on Thursday, gave up four runs and nine hits in six full frames.

The last time Houston swept the Phillies in a four-game series in Philadelphia was September 6-9, 1999 at Veterans Stadium.

It was another shoddy offensive performance by the Phillies, who have now been held to two runs or fewer in seven of their last eight games.

“We’re having trouble. We’ve been inconsistent all year, but now we’re having trouble generating runs,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of his team’s offense.

The loss dropped Philadelphia out of first place and a half-game behind idle San Francisco in the race for the National League Wild Card and three games back of first-place Atlanta in the NL East. The Braves were also off Thursday.

Already ahead 1-0, former Phillie Michael Bourn pushed home a run with a two- out single in the second. Rodriguez extended the lead to 4-0 in the fourth when his hit plated Angel Sanchez, who led off with a double.

Jayson Werth opened the fifth with a single for the first Phillies hit off Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no out.

In a sequence befitting the Phillies’ recent play at the plate, Shane Victorino struck out and Brian Schneider flied into a 9-2 double play to end the inning.

Utley’s double cut the deficit to 4-1, but the speed of Bourn restored a four- run cushion. J.C. Romero replaced Kendrick to begin the seventh and Bourn reached on an infield single with two outs. After Bourn swiped second, Anderson Hernandez hit a slow roller down the third-base line. Placido Polanco fielded the ball and Hernandez was safe on an infield single. Bourn, though, kept going after reaching third and beat first baseman Ryan Howard’s throw to the plate.

Game Notes

Houston has won five games in a row…The Phillies went 4-6 on their 10-game homestand…Ibanez was 3-for-3 with a walk…Philadelphia had won each of its last eight day games…Bourn had three hits…Houston first baseman Brett Wallace celebrated his 24th birthday…The Astros are 16-7 all-time at Citizens Bank Park, the best record by a visiting NL club…Prior to the game, the Phillies held a ceremony honoring Roy Halladay’s perfect game against the Marlins on May 29 in Florida…Rodriguez has 61 wins in an Astros uniform, tying him with Jim Deshaies for third-most in franchise history…Howard went 1-for-16 and struck out 10 times during the series.

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Preview: Kendrick Tries to Prevent the Sweep

(Sports Network) – Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park has been a house of horrors for visiting clubs in recent weeks, but the Houston Astros certainly haven’t seemed to be intimidated.

The Astros will attempt to produce their first four-game road sweep of the Phillies in nearly 11 years when they take the field against the two-time reigning National League champions this afternoon.

Houston has been out of the playoff race for quite some time, but the team is doing its best to spoil the Phillies’ postseason hopes by coming through with narrow victories in each of the first three tests of this set. After outlasting Philadelphia in a 16-inning thriller on Tuesday, the Astros prevailed by a 3-2 count last night behind the contributions of a former Phillie.

J.A. Happ, traded by Philadelphia to Houston as part of the July 27 deal that sent standout pitcher Roy Oswalt to the Phils, burned his ex-team and outdueled All-Star Roy Halladay by delivering 6 1/3 strong innings. The left- hander yielded two runs and five hits to improve to 3-2 since coming over to the Astros.

“I’m a little relieved it’s over,” Happ told the Astros’ official site of his start. “There were definitely some nerves going out there and I didn’t know how I was going to feel. Once you get out there and get going, it’s just another game … kind of.”

Houston had gone in front with a run off Halladay in the top of the seventh, when Chris Johnson doubled with one out and later scored on a Humberto Quintero single to snap a 2-2 tie.

The Astros bullpen combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings to make the one-run lead stand, with Brandon Lyon working the final two frames to register his ninth save of the year.

Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn — another one-time Phillie — each had solo homers earlier in the night off Halladay (16-9), who was reached for three runs in seven innings and had a six-start winning streak snapped.

Prior to this set, Philadelphia had won 19 of its last 23 games at Citizens Bank Park and hadn’t dropped a series at home since losing two of three tilts to NL East-leading Atlanta from July 5-7. The Phillies were last swept in their own building from August 7-9, 2009, when the club suffered three straight defeats to Florida.

Houston’s last four-game sweep in Philadelphia took place at Veterans Stadium from September 6-9, 1999.

Philadelphia was able to remain 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the East standings after Atlanta lost to Colorado yesterday afternoon, and is currently tied with San Francisco for the top spot in the NL Wild Card race.

The Phillies will pin their hopes this afternoon on Kyle Kendrick, a pitcher who’s struggled mightily in each of his last two trips to the Citizens Bank Park mound. The inconsistent righty was tagged for five runs in 5 1/3 innings of a home loss to Washington last Saturday, two starts after surrendering six runs (five earned) and eight hits in a forgettable 3 1/3-inning stint against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 10.

In 12 home assignments thus far in 2010, Kendrick is just 3-4 with a 5.46 earned run average and has served up 11 homers in 64 1/3 innings.

The Houston-born hurler, who celebrates his 26th birthday today, did toss three scoreless innings to beat the Astros in Philadelphia last September and is 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA over three games (two starts) against this afternoon’s foe.

Wandy Rodriguez takes the ball for Houston today seeking to end a four-start winless stretch, although the left-hander has pitched rather well over the course of his drought.

After allowing just five runs — three earned — over a span of 20 1/3 innings in three straight no-decisions to begin the month of August, Rodriguez struck out 10 Florida hitters in six frames this past Saturday in Miami. He still wound up with a tough loss after being touched for three runs, one of which was unearned.

The 31-year-old had gone 6-1 over a seven-start sequence from June 24-July 31 prior to his winless run, but owns only a 9-12 record in 25 appearances this season. On the road, he’s just 3-7 with a 5.30 ERA in 12 starts.

Rodriguez has faced the Phillies four times previously, twice as a starter, and is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA lifetime against Philadelphia.

Houston was swept by the Phillies in a three-game set at Minute Maid Park back in April, but has won 11 of the past 18 meetings between these teams.

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Recap: Phillies Lose Another To Lowly Astros

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Humberto Quintero’s RBI single in the seventh inning helped J.A. Happ upend his former teammates, as Houston took another slim 3-2 victory over Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park.

Happ (4-2), who was traded by the Phillies along with two prospects to Houston in exchange for Roy Oswalt prior to the trade deadline, yielded just two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Astros, who have won the first three meetings in the four-game set.

Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn each hit a solo homer for the victors.

Roy Halladay (16-9) had a personal six-start win streak snapped, as the right- handed ace was touched for three runs in seven frames for the Phils, who stayed 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East race.

Both starters pitched into the seventh, a much-needed rest for both bullpens after Tuesday’s grueling 16-inning marathon that Houston pulled out, 4-2.

Neither team recorded a hit until Pence crushed a 2-0 fastball into the seats in left-center with two outs in the fourth, breaking Halladay’s scoreless stretch at 19 innings.

The Phillies’ first hit was also a solo blast, as Jayson Werth took Happ deep over the wall in left leading off the fifth.

Bourn got into the act in the sixth with a solo shot to right for just his second home run of the year and first since June 28.

Halladay made up for the mistake with a leadoff single in the bottom half and went to second on a one-out single by Shane Victorino. Placido Polanco then lined a double over Carlos Lee’s head in left to plate Halladay.

Both Victorino and Polanco were stranded, though, and the Astros took the lead again in the seventh, as Chris Johnson doubled with one away and came in two batters later on Quintero’s bloop single to left.

Philadelphia threatened in the bottom half, but with two on and one out, Raul Ibanez, pinch-hitting for Halladay, flew out to center against Tim Byrdak. Then, with Mark Melancon on the hill, Quintero threw behind Ben Francisco at third. The runner stepped on Johnson’s foot at the bag then stepped off and was tagged out for the unorthodox pickoff.

Brandon Lyon hurled a 1-2-3 eighth, then struck out the side in the ninth around Ryan Howard’s two-out, pinch-hit single to pick up his eighth save of the season.

Despite the loss, the Phillies stayed atop the NL Wild Card race with the Giants, who lost an extra-inning game to Cincinnati earlier Wednesday.

Game Notes

The Astros announced pitcher Brian Moehler, sidelined since early July, will have surgery to repair a muscle in his lower abdomen that will end his 2010 season…Halladay had pitched to a 1.37 earned run average over his win streak.

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Recap: Phillies Fall To Astros 4-2 In 16 Innings

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Chris Johnson’s infield single scored the go-ahead run in the 16th inning, as the Houston Astros pulled out a 4-2 win over the Phillies in a battle of attrition at Citizens Bank Park.

The game was the longest of each team’s season, lasted five hours and 20 minutes, and forced both teams to empty their benches. In fact, following Ryan Howard’s ejection at the end of the 14th inning, the Phillies had no more position players left and were forced to play pitcher and former Astro Roy Oswalt in left field.

The contest only went to extra innings after Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at 2-2.

Johnson finished with four hits, while Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer for the Astros, who also beat the Phillies on Monday in the opener of this four-game series.

Raul Ibanez doubled twice and drove in a run for the Phillies, who lost for the fourth time in six games. However, they remained 2 1/2 games behind first- place Atlanta in the NL East, as the Braves lost to Colorado on Tuesday. The Phils are also even with San Francisco for the wild card lead.

In the decisive inning, David Herndon (1-3) returned to the mound for his third inning of work for the Phillies, and things quickly fell apart for the rookie reliever.

With one out, Hunter Pence reached on an infield single before Herndon hit Brett Wallace in the leg. A wild pitch allowed the runners to move into scoring position, and Herndon intentionally walked Jason Michaels to load the bases, setting up a force play at every base.

Johnson then hit a ball toward the left side, and third baseman Placido Polanco dove to stop it. Polanco went to second to try to start a double play, but the throw was too late, and the relay to first was also late. Pence scored on the play to put the Astros in front. Wallace then scored when Tommy Manzella grounded into a fielder’s choice.

The Phillies put two on with two out in the bottom half, but Jeff Fulchino (1-0) retired Oswalt to end the game.

That the teams would play nearly an entire extra game was not a prevailing thought when Rollins stepped to the plate with the Phillies down to their final out in the ninth inning, trailing 2-1, and Wilton Lopez on the mound.

Philadelphia was merely trying to survive, while Lopez, who entered the game with a scoreless streak of 19 2/3 innings, was trying to nail down the save.

Rollins stepped to the plate and took two straight balls on the way to a 3-1 count. Lopez’s fifth pitch was a fastball middle-in, and Rollins crushed it deep to right field to tie the game.

Houston threatened to re-take the lead in the 11th, when Pence and Wallace singled with one out. But Jose Contreras got Michaels to pop out to second, where Chase Utley made the catch to start a double play.

The Phillies threatened in the bottom of the 14th, when Polanco singled with two outs and Utley followed with a walk. A wild pitch allowed the runners to advance with Howard at the plate.

Howard fouled a ball off before being called on a check swing by third base umpire Scott Barry. Later in the at-bat, with the count at 1-2, Howard checked his swing again on a curveball, and again the appeal went to Barry. It appeared as though Howard was able to check his swing, and it was certainly close. But Barry ruled that Howard went around, setting off a volatile reaction by the first baseman, who had just struck out for the fifth time.

He tossed his bat and helmet, and Barry responded by tossing him out of the game. That only further incensed Howard, who began to walk toward third base, but was held back.

Beyond Howard being angry, the Phillies had no position players left, so they were forced to play Oswalt in left field. Ibanez moved to first, and both made a play in the top of the 15th.

Jason Castro hit a fly almost directly at Oswalt, who made the catch as the crowd erupted in cheers. Later, the speedy Michael Bourn tried to reach base on a bunt, which he directed toward Ibanez. But Ibanez, who has played first in his career, fielded it cleanly and dove to tag the base for the third out of the frame.

However, Fulchino quickly halted the Phillies’ momentum by holding them off the scoreboard in the bottom half.

The game began as a pitchers’ duel between Houston’s Bud Norris and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Norris allowed just one run on five hits and three walks in six innings, while Hamels gave up two runs — Lee’s homer — in seven innings. The left-hander allowed up a total of five hits, walked one and struck out eight.

Until Rollins’ home run, Hamels was in line for another tough-luck loss, as he gave up Lee’s two-run shot in the fourth inning and the Phillies had not scored. Philadelphia, in fact, had not scored a single run when Hamels was in the game over his last three starts coming into Tuesday — a stretch of 20 innings.

That scoreless streak continued until Ibanez hit an RBI double in the sixth inning, getting the Phillies within 2-1.

The Phillies had won seven straight extra-inning games…Lopez’s scoreless streak, which was the longest active streak in the majors, was extended to 20 2/3 innings before Rollins homered…Rollins was caught stealing for the first time all season. He had been 15-for-15…The game equaled the longest in Citizens Bank Park history (July 2, 2004). The Phillies last played a 16- inning game on May 23, 2006, against the Mets in New York…Oswalt became the first Phillies pitcher to play a position in a game since Bill Wilson manned third base on August 6, 1971.

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Preview: Hamels takes on Astros in second game

(Sports Network) – The Philadelphia Phillies had a hard time scoring runs in Monday’s opener of their four-game series with the Houston Astros, a scenario Cole Hamels has become quite familiar with during the course of this season.

Hamels will attempt to end a long and frustrating winless streak, while his Phillies teammates hope to give the hard-luck pitcher some offensive support when the two-time defending National League champions take on the Astros again tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

It’s been well over a month since Hamels obtained his last victory, which took place against Cincinnati on July 11, even though the former World Series MVP has pitched well enough to win on several occasions during his seven-start drought. The left-hander has allowed one run or less while lasting at least seven innings four times over that span, and he’s posted a sound 2.87 earned run average during his winless period.

Hamels has been dealt defeats in each of his last three starts, with the Phillies mustering a mere two runs over the course of those games. He struck out 11 batters and yielded one run over seven innings in a 1-0 setback to the New York Mets on August 7, then lost by an identical score to the same team six days later despite giving up just one run and fanning eight in an eight- inning complete game.

The 26-year-old had no one but himself to blame for last Thursday’s home loss to San Francisco, however, after he was tagged for five runs on seven hits in a subpar five-inning stint.

Hamels does own a 3-2 record over seven lifetime starts against Houston, but lost both of his two encounters with the Astros last season while surrendering 10 runs and 17 hits over a combined 12 2/3 innings.

The Phillies also couldn’t come up with many big hits in last night’s clash with the Astros, who came through with a 3-2 triumph on Carlos Lee’s clutch two-run single with two outs in the top of the eighth inning.

Trailing 2-1 entering the eighth, one-time Phillie Jason Michaels greeted reliever Ryan Madson (4-2) with a single to start the frame and Michael Bourn followed with a bunt base hit in which he eluded a tag attempt from Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard. Both runners would then move up a base on a sacrifice before Lee fisted a broken-bat single to left that put the Astros in front.

The hit made a winner of ex-Phillie Brett Myers (9-7), who held his former club to two runs and racked up nine strikeouts over the first seven innings. Tim Byrdak came on to pitch a scoreless eighth before Brandon Lyon closed out the victory with a shutout ninth.

“It’s always good to get a win. I don’t think it really has anything to do with who you beat at the time,” said Myers, who spent eight seasons in Philadelphia before signing a free-agent contract with the Astros in January. “This one feels pretty good, just to be able to beat the team I spent my entire career.”

Bourn, another former Phillie, finished 3-for-4 with a pair of steals and two runs scored from the leadoff spot, while Lee collected two hits in four at- bats on the night.

The Phillies scored both their runs off Myers in the second inning, with Carlos Ruiz belting a solo homer and Chase Utley later delivering a run- scoring single. Philadelphia recorded 10 hits for the game, but stranded eight baserunners in losing for only the fifth time in its last 24 contests at Citizens Bank Park.

“We’re supposed to hit, the bottom line is we were built to hit,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “When you look and you see some of our guys struggling, our numbers are way behind.”

Phils starter Joe Blanton was in line for the win after limiting the Astros to one run over seven innings prior to giving way to Madson. The right-hander registered a season-high nine strikeouts and did not walk a batter.

Despite the loss, Philadelphia remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East race after the Braves fell to Colorado on Monday. However, the Phillies’ lead atop the league’s Wild Card standings was trimmed to just one game after both St. Louis and San Francisco won last night.

Houston will shoot for a third consecutive win tonight behind the resurgent Bud Norris, who hasn’t lost in five straight starts and pitched brilliantly in each of his last two times out.

Norris struck out a career-high 14 Pittsburgh batters and allowed just two runs over seven innings on August 14, then recorded his fourth winning decision in a row in a 3-2 verdict over the Mets on Thursday. The second-year major leaguer permitted two runs and only two hits through seven sharp frames in that one.

The young right-hander, now 6-7 on the season, gets an opportunity to atone for a rough season debut against Philadelphia back on April 9, when he was reached for three runs on six hits and walked four batters in a shaky 2 2/3 innings while receiving a loss. Norris did defeat the Phillies in Houston last September, though, by tossing six frames of two-run ball and notching six strikeouts.

Houston won six of eight meetings with the Phillies in 2009, but was swept by Philadelphia in a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in April.

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Recap: Phillies Fall To Astros 3-2

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Carlos Lee’s two-run single off Ryan Madson in the eighth inning lifted Houston to a 3-2 win over Philadelphia and gave Brett Myers a win against his former club in a wet evening at Citizens Bank Park.

Myers (9-7), who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Phillies before leaving as a free agent this past offseason, lasted seven frames to tie a club record by pitching at least six innings in 26 consecutive starts. The right-hander fanned nine and gave up two runs on nine hits and a walk.

Michael Bourn had three hits, two steals and two runs scored for the Astros, winners of two straight following a 2-4 stretch.

Madson (4-2) was unable to hold the lead behind Joe Blanton, who gave up one run on six hits and no walks to go with a season-high nine strikeouts in seven frames for the Phillies, who fell three games behind Atlanta for the National League East Division lead but stayed in front in the Wild Card race.

Carlos Ruiz hit a solo homer in defeat, the club’s third in five games.

Madson relieved Blanton to start the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels. Bourn then bunted one down the first-base line and avoided Ryan Howard’s tag by pivoting to his right and narrowly staying inside the base line, according to first base umpire Greg Gibson.

Angel Sanchez moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt, and, after Hunter Pence struck out, Lee hit an inside pitch off of his fists, breaking his bat as the ball drifted into left field to score Michaels and Bourn.

After Tim Byrdak threw a scoreless eighth, Brandon Lyon walked Ruiz to start the ninth. Both Wilson Valdez and pinch-hitter Placido Polanco failed to move the runner up with a popped up bunt and flyout to center, respectively.

Ben Francisco, pinch-running for Ruiz, stole second with Jimmy Rollins at the plate, but Lyon got Rollins to hit a low liner to left that Michaels caught on the run, finishing off the closer’s seventh save of the season.

Bourn led off the game with a single, stole second, moved to third on Sanchez’s base hit and scored on Pence’s sacrifice fly. The Astros had a chance for more in the inning thanks to Lee’s double to right-center, but a relay throw from Shane Victorino to Chase Utley to Ruiz resulted in Sanchez getting thrown out at the plate.

Myers quickly retired the first six batters he faced, striking out four, but got too much of the plate with a fastball to Ruiz to start the third, resulting in his former battery mate’s sixth home run of the season.

Blanton and Rollins each added one-out singles later in the frame before Brett Wallace fielded Victorino’s sharp grounder at first and came home with the throw to nab Blanton. That play left runners on the corners, and Utley’s base hit up the middle plated Rollins for a 2-1 lead.

The pitchers took over from there in a rain-soaked opener of the four-game series. Blanton retired 10 straight after the first inning, and Myers got Victorino to ground into an inning-ending double play with two runners on in the seventh to end another efficient outing.

Game Notes

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was ejected in the eighth for arguing that Bourn stepped out of the base line on his bunt attempt…Larry Dierker was the only other Astros pitcher to last at least six innings in 26 straight starts, having done it from June 20, 1969-April 17, 1970…Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth hit his 42nd double in the sixth inning but was picked off at second base by Astros catcher Humberto Quintero following an intentional walk to Ruiz.

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