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Archive for Thursday, October 6, 2005

Astros bring out big bats

Houston explodes to take series opener against Atlanta

October 6, 2005

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— The Houston Astros figured their pitching would have to carry them through the postseason.

Instead, the offense came up big in the very first game.

Morgan Ensberg had five RBIs, and 39-year-old leadoff hitter Craig Biggio was in the middle of just about every rally, leading Houston past the Atlanta Braves, 10-5, in Game 1 of their NL playoff series Wednesday.

Andy Pettitte overcame two homers to join Atlanta's John Smoltz as the winningest pitcher in postseason history, a mark that Smoltz can reclaim for himself when he goes against Roger Clemens in Game 2 today.

Houston is trying to beat the Braves in the opening round for the second year in a row, but in a decidedly different manner than the power-hitting team that pulled off a five-game triumph last year.

That team had Carlos Beltran, Jeff Kent and a healthy Jeff Bagwell. This team is built around the starting rotation: Pettitte, Clemens and 20-game winner Roy Oswalt.

"Obviously, we had some pretty big bats last year," Biggio said. "But this year's lineup isn't so bad, either."

The Astros, who led the National League in earned-run average but ranked 11th in runs, had no trouble scoring on Tim Hudson and the shaky Braves bullpen. Houston pecked away with eight singles, nine walks and two hit batters. Three doubles - one of them by Pettitte - were the only extra-base hits.

The Braves went with Hudson for the opener instead of Smoltz, who's been bothered by a stiff shoulder. Manager Bobby Cox figured Hudson was just as good a choice, a former 20-game winner who pitched in four postseasons with Oakland.

But the right-hander was roughed up for five runs in 62â3 innings - the most he had allowed since a June 13 loss at Texas, which preceded a stint on the disabled list.

"The first few innings, I just overthrew it," said Hudson, who gave up seven hits, walked five and hit a batter. "I made an adjustment about the fourth and started feeling pretty good. But I took too long to make the adjustment."


Houston's Morgan Ensberg connects for a run-scoring single against Atlanta. Ensberg drove in five runs, and the Astros defeated the Braves, 10-5, Wednesday in Atlanta.

Houston's Morgan Ensberg connects for a run-scoring single against Atlanta. Ensberg drove in five runs, and the Astros defeated the Braves, 10-5, Wednesday in Atlanta.

Pettitte, improving to 14-8 in the postseason, pitched four-hit ball over seven innings - more than good enough the way the Astros were hitting Hudson.

"I was surprised we put the runs on him," Pettitte said. "I'm not going to lie to you. He's tough."

Not on this day, and Houston turned a 5-3 game into a blowout with five runs in the eighth, sending 11 batters to the plate against relievers Chris Reitsma, John Foster and Jim Brower.

Biggio played the role of leadoff hitter to perfection. He had two hits, a sacrifice fly, a sac bunt and a walk in six trips to the plate. He scored three times.

Ensberg tied a Houston postseason record with his five RBIs.

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