HOUSTON (AP) -- Astros manager Phil Garner said when Jeff Bagwell
returned after more than four months on the disabled list last week
that he didn't want to rush Bagwell into any high-pressured
situations while the veteran slugger was just getting his stroke
"I lied," Garner said Friday night.
NL wild-card standings
Garner inserted Bagwell as a pinch-hitter with the score tied in
the ninth inning, and Bagwell's run-scoring single lifted Houston
over the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1."Let's just say I felt he was the man to go to," Garner said.
"And he came through for us big."Houston, which won its third straight game, remained a half-game
ahead of Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race and moved 1½ games
in front of Florida, which lost to the Phillies 11-3."You have to be a little nervous in that situation," Bagwell
said. "It was a big moment, and it's a win we needed."Mike Lamb and Lance Berkman led off the ninth by hitting
consecutive singles off Dana Eveland (1-1). After Jason Lane struck
out and Jose Vizcaino fouled out, Bagwell got a huge ovation from
the crowd when he came up to pinch hit for Brad Lidge (4-3).When he singled to right-center, scoring pinch-runner Willy
Taveras, the crowd cheered even more."It gave me chills just to see him go out there," Lidge said.
"We've all been pulling for him in his comeback, so to see him do
that was great for everybody."It was just Bagwell's third appearance since he returned Sept. 9
after recuperating from shoulder surgery in May."The crowd has always been great to me and I'm glad I was able
to come through for them," he said.Lidge relieved Roy Oswalt with men on second and third and one
out in the eighth, then struck out Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins.
Lidge faced five batters in all, striking out four.Oswalt failed to get his 18th victory, allowing one run and
eight hits in 7 1/3 innings with five strikeouts and one walk.Rick Helling, trying to beat Houston for the second time in six
days, gave up one run and four hits in seven innings, also striking
out five and walking one.Helling retired his first 11 batters before Lamb singled to
right-center. Jason Lane led off the fifth with his 23rd homer,
ending an 18-inning scoreless streak for Helling that included
seven innings against Houston last Sunday."Those kind of games come down to one big hit," Brewers
manager Ned Yost said. "Helling and Oswalt both pitched
outstanding, and then Lidge came in and did an awesome job. Dana
battled to get two outs and then got a pitch up to Bagwell and that
was it. It was a great game."Lyle Overbay homered leading off the sixth for Milwaukee. He
wasn't surprised by Bagwell's heroics."That was typical Bagwell," Overbay said. "You're never safe,
even if he hasn't seen live pitching for two years or two months.
He's going to give you a battle. The crowd got into it, and I think
that pumped him up."
Houston RF Orlando Palmeiro started a sixth-inning double
play, catching Bill Hall's fly to right-center on the run and
turning and throwing to 2B Craig Biggio, who doubled up Jenkins at
first. ... Houston got its 14th last at-bat win. ... Houston LF
Luke Scott made his first start since bruising his hip when he ran
into the left-field wall on Sept. 10.