PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Craig Biggio learned enough from watching
Billy Wagner pitch to know how to beat his former teammate.
Biggio hit a three-run homer off Wagner with two outs in the
ninth inning, and the Houston Astros completed a three-game sweep
with an 8-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday
night.Houston, which has a one-game lead over Florida in the NL
wild-card race, won its 12th straight over Philadelphia. The
free-falling Phillies fell 2½ games behind with their fifth
straight loss."That's the first time I've ever faced Billy," Biggio said of
his close friend and teammate for eight years in Houston. "He
threw me a fastball in, then inside again. The last pitch was 99
mph, so I could have popped it up."Bobby Abreu hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth, and
pinch-hitter Shane Victorino gave the Phillies a short-lived lead
with an RBI single, his first major league hit in more than two
years.Wagner (4-3) retired the first two batters in the ninth before
Jose Vizcaino reached on third baseman David Bell's fielding error.
Willy Taveras beat out an infield single to shortstop, and Biggio
followed with a drive into the left-field seats for his 20th homer."I tried to get it up, but that's his zone," Wagner said.
"You have to make sure it's up enough."Making matters worse for Philadelphia's All-Star closer, Biggio
just signed a jersey for Wagner's son."Here you go, son, here's a jersey from the guy who just
homered off your dad," said Wagner, who got the loss for the
second straight game after not facing Houston the first nine times
the teams met since he was traded to Philadelphia in 2003.Chad Qualls (5-4) got the final two outs in the eighth. Brad
Lidge finished for his 35th save.Light-hitting Mike Lamb hit a three-run homer and Lance Berkman
hit a solo shot for Houston.The Phillies rallied in the eighth against Dan Wheeler.
Pinch-hitter Jason Michaels walked to start the inning. After Chase
Utley sent Taveras to the center-field wall on a flyout, Abreu hit
a drive deep into the Phillies' bullpen in center field to tie it
at 5. The normally low-key Abreu shouted at his teammates in the
dugout on his way to first base and slowly jogged around the bases.Pat Burrell followed with a walk, and Howard doubled to put
runners on second and third. Endy Chavez ran for Burrell, and Bell
was intentionally walked to load the bases.Qualls entered and got pinch-hitter Michael Tucker on a grounder
to first base that forced Chavez at the plate. But Victorino lined
the next pitch to right to score Howard. Bell was thrown out at the
plate by right fielder Jason Lane.It was Victorino's first hit in the majors since May 14, 2003.Despite the Phillies being in the playoff chase, only 29,026
turned out at Citizens Bank Park. Most fans spent the first seven
innings voicing their displeasure with the Phillies. They booed
manager Charlie Manuel when he walked out to the mound for a
pitching change, chanted "E-A-G-L-E-S" randomly throughout the
game and jeered whoever failed to deliver in clutch spots.Abreu got a standing ovation when he came through in a crucial
spot, but the team left the field to a chorus of boos."This is a hard loss," Manuel said. "We had it and we gave it
away. We have to get our act together and start winning games."Before connecting off Vicente Padilla in the sixth, Lamb was
hitting just .208. He hadn't gone deep since Aug. 2.Berkman walked to start the inning and went to third on Lane's
double. Lamb then lined a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats for
his eighth homer, giving Houston a 5-3 lead.Padilla allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings, one
of his poorest outings since the All-Star break. The right-hander
has been Philadelphia's most consistent starter since early July.
Since nearly being pulled from the rotation and almost losing his
roster spot after starting 3-8 with a 6.69 ERA, Padilla was 5-4
with a 2.60 ERA in his previous 11 starts.Howard gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the second on his 15th
homer, a liner into the seats in right-center field. The slugging
first baseman filling in for the injured Jim Thome leads NL rookies
with 15 homers, even though he spent most of the first three months
in Triple-A.Utley's fielder's choice grounder scored Jimmy Rollins to make
it 3-1 in the third.Berkman gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in the second with his 18th
homer and fifth in seven games. Houston cut it to 3-2 in the fourth
on a fielder's choice grounder by Adam Everett.Brandon Backe, making his first start since July 23 after being
sidelined with a strained left ribcage, allowed three runs and
three hits in four innings."Wagner's tough. We all know how good he is," Astros manager
Phil Garner said. "We just buckled down."
Astros 3B Morgan Ensberg missed his second straight game
with a bruised hand. He was hit by a pitch Monday night. ...
Rollins extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games. ...
Thome spent a few innings in the Phillies' television broadcast
booth. He plans to return to Florida to after this 10-game
homestand concludes next week.