It is all but certain the Houston Astros will not avoid losing their 100th game.
But doing so again Sunday may leave the Philadelphia Phillies digging out of a deeper hole than they expected over the final 15 games for the National League's second wild-card spot.
Philadelphia (73-73) rolled into Minute Maid Park on a seven-game win streak after sweeping a six-game homestand, figuring its momentum would continue against the major leagues' worst team. The Astros, however, have turned that theory on its head by taking two of the first three games of this series, including a 5-0 victory Saturday night behind a combined seven-hitter from Dallas Keuchel and four relievers."Tonight was unreal," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after his team went 0 for 10 with men in scoring position and stranded 12 baserunners. "We have to keep playing. We've got to play better. They outplayed us."
Despite the two losses to Houston, the Phillies remain three games behind St. Louis for the NL's final playoff berth, though they still need to overtake three other teams.
On Sunday, they must hope Roy Halladay (10-7, 4.01 ERA) can continue his late-season surge. The right-hander has won back-to-back starts and four consecutive decisions after grinding past Miami on Tuesday, giving up five runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-7 victory.
Facing the Astros has been less stressful for Halladay, who is 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA and two complete games in four starts against them. He threw a six-hitter in his last outing at Minute Maid Park on Sept. 14, 2011, riding a first-inning run to a 1-0 victory.
Halladay will have catcher Carlos Ruiz back in the starting lineup after Manuel gave him Saturday off while he continues to fight plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Ruiz is 4 for 11 with three runs scored in five games since coming off the disabled list.
Houston (47-99) will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 10-11 over Milwaukee and stave off its second consecutive 100-loss season for another day. After being held to three runs while dropping two of three to the Chicago Cubs , the Astros have scored 17 runs in this series - equaling their total from the previous seven games."(Saturday) was the day where they all believed in themselves," Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "(Sunday) is another day. If we can be the spoiler and give our guys some success and confidence, that's what we're looking for."
Houston's Jordan Lyles (4-11, 5.31) is out to win consecutive starts for the first time in his two-year career. The right-hander was efficient Tuesday versus Chicago, scattering two hits and two walks in five innings before five relievers finished up a six-hitter in a 1-0 victory.
Lyles did not get a decision in his only start versus Philadelphia, yielding three runs - one earned - in six innings of a 4-3, 10-inning defeat May 15.
|September 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 31, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus in right knee|
|August 29, 2012||Cole Hamels||Day-to-Day||Gastrointestinal illness|
|August 29, 2012||Vance Worley||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in right elbow|
|August 28, 2012||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee soreness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left abdominal|
|August 30, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, left ankle|
|August 28, 2012||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|August 22, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Bruised right index finger|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
HOUSTON (AP) -- Philadelphia still has a chance to make the playoffs with 15 games remaining. However, after losing three of four to the Houston Astros , even the Phillies admitted it just got harder.
Justin Maxwell hit a two-run double and Matt Dominguez added a two-run single in Houston's four-run seventh inning as the Astros rallied for a 7-6 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
Philadelphia fell to 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis and Los Angeles in the National League wild card race.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said losing three of four to the Astros really hurts, but added that his team has to keep on playing.
"We can turn it around," Manuel said. "We are four back. We have been in tougher situations than this. We have to keep going and keep trying. You get tested all the time. We have to play like hell, but we can do it. We aren't going to give up. We are going to play it out. We have done it before. Survive."
Carlos Corporan and Scott Moore homered for the Astros, who remained one loss away from reaching 100 for the second straight season.
"The guys don't quit," Houston interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "It seems like they've got some life and fire. We're trying to establish the familiarity with participating in a winning ballgame. It's fun, and the clubhouse has got a little energy now."
Wesley Wright (2-2) pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up the win. Wilton Lopez got the last five outs for his sixth save.
Jose Altuve reached on an error by third baseman Michael Martinez to begin the seventh and Jimmy Paredes was walked by Antonio Bastardo (2-5). Pinch hitter Brandon Laird walked off Phillippe Aumont to load the bases with one out.
Maxwell's double down the right-field line that just found chalk put the Astros ahead 5-4, and Dominguez followed with his two-run single.
"I was hoping and I was seeing the runners ahead of me going," Maxwell said of his hit. "I didn't see it hit the chalk. I just kept running."
After Dominguez moved to second on a passed ball, Justin De Fratus intentionally walked pinch hitter Jason Castro one out later but got Tyler Greene to ground out to end the inning.
Domonic Brown sliced the lead to 7-6 with a two-run double off Mickey Storey in the eighth. Lopez, however, struck out pinch hitter Laynce Nix and got a grounder from Nate Schierholtz to end the inning.
Jimmy Rollins led off the ninth with a single and moved to second on Erik Kratz 's fly ball to right. Lopez got Chase Utley to fly out to left and intentionally walked Ryan Howard before Carlos Ruiz grounded to first to end the game.
Rollins said losing three of four to the Astros was not good but not deflating.
"It shouldn't be deflating," Rollins said. "We lose games. It obviously doesn't matter the name on the jersey. If we lose, we just don't have any more room. Would it matter if it was the Nationals? No."
Phillies starter Roy Halladay gave up three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts in six innings, remaining two wins shy of 200 for his career.
Halladay said the Astros' young lineup was hard to figure out.
"It is definitely a different, odd team to pitch to," Halladay said. "Sometimes they are aggressive, sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are taking. I think the whole series, we never figured out what their plan was. It was kind of all over the place. That made it tough."
Jordan Lyles gave up four runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings for Houston. Lyles has gone longer than five innings just once in his last six starts.
Philadelphia scored three runs in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Rollins singled with two outs, stole second and moved to third on Corporan's throwing error. Juan Pierre followed with a run-scoring double to left field.
Lyles intentionally walked Utley, and Howard followed with a two-run double to left but Howard was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.
Corporan's solo homer in the sixth pulled Houston to 4-3.
Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead in the first on Utley's sacrifice fly.
Moore's two-run homer in the third put the Astros ahead 2-1.
NOTES: Houston OF Fernando Martinez was scratched from the lineup and replaced by Paredes in right field. ... Altuve was expected to get the day off Sunday but started after INF Jed Lowrie was given the day off due to soreness in his right leg, DeFrancesco said. Greene started at shortstop in place of Lowrie. . Philadelphia starts a three-game series Monday at the New York Mets with LHP Cliff Lee starting for the Phillies against RHP R.A. Dickey for the Mets. . Houston starts a three-game series at St. Louis on Tuesday with LHP Fernando Abad going for the Astros against RHP Kyle Lohse .