HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Astros won their opener just like they won most of their games last season -- with one of their aces getting just enough run support.
Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge combined on a five-hitter, Craig Biggio doubled and scored on Joe Borowski's wild pitch in the seventh inning, and the Astros beat the Florida Marlins and new manager Joe Girardi 1-0 Monday night.Coming off consecutive 20-win seasons, Oswalt struck out eight in eight innings, walked one and allowed five hits to win for the 13th time in 14 decisions at home.But the Astros reverted to last season's form at the plate, mustering only four hits -- none at all through the first 4 2/3 innings off Dontrelle Willis.The Astros ranked near the bottom of the majors in most offensive categories in 2005."We went with our normal offensive output," cracked first baseman Lance Berkman. "I always tell the guys [pitchers] if they want to win the game, throw a shutout."Willis, who led the majors with 22 wins last season, threw 107 pitches and was angry when Girardi pulled him after the fifth inning."I wanted to stay in the game," Willis said. "I don't know exactly what the pitch count was, but I didn't want to come out that game at all."Josh Johnson replaced Willis and took the loss in his first career decision.Biggio started the Astros' rally when he doubled off Johnson into the left-field corner with two outs in the seventh. It was the 605th double of his career, tying Paul Molitor and Paul Waner for 10th place."That's what that guy's been doing for 18 years," Houston manager Phil Garner said, "coming up with big plays when you need them."Willy Taveras reached on an infield single, a grounder that shortstop Hanley Ramirez couldn't handle deep in the hole, and Berkman loaded the bases with a walk.Borowski came in and, with Morgan Ensberg batting, the reliever threw a 2-1 pitch into the dirt. The ball ricocheted away from catcher Miguel Olivo as Biggio sprinted home and slid across the plate.Florida, with a major league-low payroll of about $15 million and six rookies in its starting lineup, is expected to finish this season near the bottom of the standings."I don't see any loss as respectable," Girardi said. "We had our chances to win and we didn't get it done."Before the game, the Astros unveiled a black, flag-shaped sign in center field honoring last year's NL championship team. Nolan Ryan, the career strikeouts leader who is now an Astros executive, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.The loudest ovation of the night came when Jeff Bagwell was introduced with his team before the game.Houston's starting first baseman for the past 15 seasons, Bagwell will start this year on the disabled list and says he might never play again because of an arthritic right shoulder. The Astros have argued Bagwell is disabled, but they were denied an insurance claim to recoup more than $15 million of the $17 million Bagwell is owed this season.When he trotted onto the field, fans stood for two full minutes as Bagwell repeatedly tipped his cap.Bagwell said his knees were shaking as the fans cheered."This could be my last time out here," he said. "That means a lot to me."Florida watched the tribute from the third-base line. Then, Willis and Oswalt took the spotlight.Willis' first pitch skidded off the dirt behind Biggio, and Houston loaded the bases on walks by Berkman and Ensberg plus as error by Ramirez that allowed Preston Wilson to reach. Willis escaped when Jason Lane lined out to second baseman Dan Uggla, but it took Willis 33 pitches to record three outs.Houston didn't get a ball out of the infield over the next three innings and its only runner in that stretch was Ensberg, who walked leading off the fourth.Adam Everett led off the fifth by beating out a grounder that Ramirez bobbled. It was ruled an error, though, preserving Willis' no-hit bid. Taveras singled with two outs in the fifth, on Willis' 101st pitch.Ensberg led off the sixth by lining a single, but Wilson struck out, Olivo threw out Ensberg at second and Brad Ausmus fanned.Oswalt, meanwhile, cruised after Ramirez singled to center leading off the game."I had some problems early with my curveball," Oswalt said. "But later on, I was able to get in front of it better. I'm just glad to get through the eighth inning and keep the bullpen out of it."
Several San Antonio city officials, including Mayor Phil Hardberger, attended the game as guests of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The city is trying to lure the franchise to Texas and Loria has said discussions between the parties are "serious." ... The
Astros opened at home for the 10th time in 11 seasons. ... The game drew 43,666 fans, the second-largest crowd to see a regular season game at Minute Maid Park.