Phillies hold ground in NL wild-card race

HOUSTON (AP) -- A blown call cost Ryan Howard his 57th home run.
Even so, Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies came out just

Hamels pitched hitless ball for 6 2/3 innings and the Phillies
beat the Houston Astros 7-2 Saturday to keep close in the NL wild-card

The Phillies are 1 games behind wild card-leading San Diego,
which beat the Dodgers 11-2 Saturday Their win prevented the New York Mets from clinching the
NL East title.

The game was scoreless in the sixth when Howard hit what was
ruled a double by umpire Larry Poncino. Replays appeared to show a
young fan in the first row of the left-field seats trying to catch
the ball and dropping it.

After the game, Poncino said he got it wrong.

"The play was the play," Poncino said in a statement. "The
ball was over the fence and that's it."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel argued the call at the time, but
not too vehemently.

"I was in the dugout and it was hard to see," he said. "I
couldn't follow the ball all the way but some of the guys in the
dugout said the kid leaned over and hit the ball. I didn't see any
of our guys really jumping up and down. Sometimes that really helps
you know what happened."

Howard wasn't sure, either.

"I didn't see where it hit," Howard said after being told of
Poncino's remarks. "It's a little disappointing, but there's
nothing you can do about it now unless they give me a home run when
I hit a double sometime. It definitely would have been big at the

Hamels (8-8) did not allow a hit until Adam Everett lined an RBI
double with two outs in the seventh.

Hamels gave up three hits and struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings to
improve to 6-2 in his last 10 starts.

"The left-hander was the story," Manuel said. "He did a heck
of a job. I was thinking today could be the day. But he's got a big
career to work on that."

Hamels admitted thinking about a possible no-hitter.

"When you get through five or six innings and you're doing as
well as I was doing, you start to understand that everything's
working," said Hamels, who has never thrown a no-hitter at any
level. "It does cross your mind, but you just have to keep
fighting and not think about it."

The 22-year-old Hamels impressed his teammates.

"He's got a great future ahead of him," said David Dellucci,
whose home run broke up a scoreless game and started a four-run
seventh. "The way he handles himself on the field and in the
clubhouse is a lot more mature than his years."

Hamels also received the Astros' praise.

"He did a great job," Morgan Ensberg said. "He had phenomenal
stuff. He was very effective with his changeup. It was very
difficult to pick up because it's got a little sink in it."

Dellucci said the Phillies were focusing on their games, not on
other teams.

"The most important thing for us to do now is just win games,"
Dellucci said. "It doesn't matter what the scoreboard says. We
just have to play good fundamental baseball. That's what it takes
to stay in this thing."

The Astros started the day five games behind San Diego for the
wild card.

"I'm disappointed," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "I'm a
little down right now. I'm sure I feel the same way the players
feel right now. We needed to put on a good showing and we needed to
do it very quickly against these guys and we just haven't done it.
So we continue to dig a hole for ourselves."

Ensberg agreed.

"We don't feel good about it," he said. "Obviously, we
realize we don't have very much wiggle room at all. We've put
ourselves in a very difficult spot."

Dellucci's 13th homer came off Jason Hirsh (3-4). After a walk,
Chad Qualls relieved.

An error by first baseman Lance Berkman set up Jimmy Rollins'
RBI double and set up run-scoring singles by Shane Victorino and
Chase Utley.

Astros fans booed reliever Brad Lidge after he gave up a two-run
triple to Abraham Nunez in the eighth. Lidge didn't retire any of
the three batters he faced, and Rollins had a sacrifice fly.

Hirsh struck out five and held the Phillies without a hit until
Chris Coste singled with one out in the fifth.

Ensberg drove in Taveras with a single in the eighth.

Game notes
Houston's Craig Biggio ran his hitless streak to 0-for-28
with an 0-for-4 game Saturday ... Dellucci is 0-for-27 with men in
scoring position and two outs this season. ... The Phillies are
19-10 in their last 29 road games.