HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros can see their chances of
winning their fifth NL Central title in seven years slipping away.
The Giants roughed up Wade Miller (14-13) and sent the Astros to
their fourth consecutive loss. Houston fell a game behind the
Chicago Cubs, who beat Cincinnati 6-0, after holding at least a
share of the division lead since Sept. 8.
"We've been playing our hearts out trying to do something we've
wanted to do since April," Jeff Kent said. "You're going to lose, you hope you don't lose enough to put you out. We're running out of time."
Jason Schmidt (17-5) benefited from all the San Francisco
offense. The right-hander, slated to start Game 1 of the playoffs
for the NL West champion Giants, gave up only two runs and three
hits in seven innings.
He has won five straight decisions and 12 of his last 14.
Jason Lane homered twice for Houston, the first multihomer game
of his career.
The Giants lead Atlanta by two percentage points in the race for
the best record in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the
After Wednesday's series finale, Houston closes at home with
four games against Milwaukee. The Cubs play at Cincinnati on
Wednesday and Thursday, then go home for a three-game series
"We're up for this game for tomorrow," Astros manager Jimy
Williams said. "You have to have a well-pitched game from your
starter. The starter sets the tone of the game. That's what their
starter did tonight, and that's what we need tomorrow."
The Astros went down meekly against Schmidt, who retired 14 in a
row at one point.
The Giants tagged Miller and Ricky Stone in taking a 10-0 lead
in the second. It was San Francisco's biggest inning since scoring
11 runs in the sixth at Milwaukee on May 21, 2000.
The last time the Astros allowed at least 10 runs in an inning
was Aug. 3, 1989, at Cincinnati, when the Reds scored 14 times in
"We're definitely not done yet," Miller said. "We've got five
games left. Maybe we're a little tired, but we're not done. I just
had a few location problems with my fastball and I got it out over
the plate. I was just getting singled to death. It wasn't like I
was getting hammered."
It was the third slam of Alfonzo's career, his second this
season. He hit one off Chicago's Kerry Wood on July 30. The Giants have six grand slams this year.
"No matter how it looks, it's a home run," Alfonzo said. "You
can't hit them that easy in our park. You have to enjoy every
moment out of Pac Bell. It's not as easy to hit home runs there."
Schmidt walked, and Ray Durham's fielder's choice grounder
forced Alfonzo at the plate for the first out.
J.T. Snow's RBI single left the bases loaded again, and Miller walked Rich Aurilia to force in Schmidt. Barry Bonds hit a grounder to first baseman Jeff Bagwell, whose error on the throw home allowed Durham to score for a 5-0 lead.
Grissom popped out for the second out, but Santiago walked to
force in Snow and make it 6-0. That set the stage for Alfonzo's
drive on the second pitch from Stone.
Cruz then doubled and Schmidt struck out to end the inning.
Miller, who went 7-2 in his previous nine starts, left with two
outs in the inning. He allowed nine runs -- four earned -- and six
hits. He walked three and struck out two.
The Astros will face a diluted lineup in the series finale.
"Everybody will get the day off, that will give us two days
off," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "Some of the guys really
The Giants are looking forward to going home.
"We've played the same all year," Aurilia said. "We just want
to continue to play well in this series. We can take at least two
of three here and get home and rest for two days, then come out and
play well this weekend."
The Giants have been in first place for 177 straight days
dating to last season, breaking the franchise record of 176 set by
the 1971 team. ... Miller's shortest outing this season was
one-third of an inning May 10 at Philadelphia.