Astros lose two out of three to NL's worst team


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- After losing two of three to the worst team in
the National League, the Houston Astros have seen their postseason
chances all but fade away.

Bill Hall's two-run double keyed Milwaukee's four-run fourth
inning as the Brewers handed Roy Oswalt his first loss in two
months and dealt another blow to Houston's playoff chances with a
5-4 victory Thursday.

The Astros' loss reduced St. Louis' magic number to two for
clinching the NL Central. Houston trails San Francisco by 6 games
in the wild-card race, pending the Giants' night game against Los

"We have a very steep hill to climb,'' Houston's Jeff Bagwell
said. "About as uphill as you can get.''

Oswalt (19-7) allowed four runs and four hits in six innings to
lose for the first time since July 16, a span of 12 starts.

"I didn't really have my normal stuff, but I was pleased that I
battled through six,'' he said.

The Astros left 11 runners on base and went 2-for-13 with
runners in scoring position. They put the tying run on third in
both the eighth and ninth innings, but failed to get either home.

"We had our chances to say the least, from the get-go,''
Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "Early in the game. Not a lot
in the middle, but certainly at the end of the game we had the
right people up in the right situations, but we couldn't tie it.''

Wayne Franklin (1-1), traded from Houston to Milwaukee on Aug.
31, gave up one run and five hits in six innings for his first
career win.

"To put a phrase on this day, I'd probably call it poetic
justice,'' Franklin said. "I felt like that I wasn't wanted there
(in Houston) anymore. That's what it felt like.''

Brewers manager Jerry Royster was pleased with the left-hander's
performance, pitching for the first time in nine days.

"He had a little bit of a control problem, but always seemed to
make a good pitch when he needed to,'' Royster said.

Four relievers pitched the final three innings, with Mike DeJean
getting three outs for his 25th save in 28 opportunities.

With Milwaukee leading 5-3, Houston loaded the bases with one
out in the eighth but could manage only one run on pinch-hitter
Gregg Zaun's groundout. Ray King struck out Daryle Ward to strand
runners on second and third.

The Astros had runners at first and third with two outs in the
ninth, but DeJean struck out pinch-hitter Orlando Merced to end the

"We had a lot of opportunities, we just came up short,''
Bagwell said.

Oswalt retired the first nine batters, but struggled in the
fourth against a makeshift Milwaukee starting lineup that included
five players with fewer than 50 at-bats this season.

With Houston leading 1-0, Keith Ginter received a one-out walk.
Jim Rushford flied out, but Richie Sexson walked, moving Ginter to
second. Matt Stairs hit a sharp single to right, scoring Ginter to
tie it at 1.

Hall, called up from the minors on Aug. 31, hit a deep fly to
left that got over Lance Berkman's head for a double, scoring
Sexson and Stairs. Paul Bako followed with a single to score Hall
and make it 4-1.

The Astros made it 4-3 in the seventh on Berkman's two-run
single, scoring Adam Everett and Craig Biggio. Milwaukee added a
run in the bottom half on a throwing error by first baseman

The Astros scored the first run on Bagwell's RBI single in the
third inning.

Game notes
The Miller Park roof leaked again when rain started falling
in the sixth inning, but not as much water came through as at
earlier times this year. ... SS Jose Hernandez, who has 188
strikeouts and is one shy of Bobby Bonds' all-time single-season
strikeout record, was given the day off. ... Astros RHP Brad Lidge
said his left side still hurt Thursday, a day after straining a
muscle in his first career start. ... Brewers LF Geoff Jenkins, on
the disabled list, will be at the White House on Sunday to coach
third base during a T-ball game on the South Lawn.