Astros Even Series With Win


First, Houston blew the lead in the ninth. Then, Bill Spiers saved the Astros.

Spiers' third hit of the game, an RBI single with one out in the ninth, lifted the Houston Astros to a wild 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres on Thursday and tied their first-round series at one game apiece.

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  • The Astros had taken a 4-2 lead into the ninth, but Billy Wagner allowed a two-out, two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jim Leyritz.

    Then in the bottom half, Dan Miceli allowed Ricky Gutierrez's infield single to shortstop leading off. Brad Ausmus sacrificed, Trevor Hoffman relieved, and Gutierrez stole third base uncontested. Spiers then lifted a single to right on a 1-2 count.

    Wagner, who got the win, was shaky down the stretch, blowing consecutive save chances against the Mets last month by allowing homers to Brian McRae and Mike Piazza.

    It was Houston's 49th come-from-behnd win this year, and the 28th in its last at-bat. It was also the seventh one-run game the teams have played this year, including San Diego's 2-1 victory in the series opener Tuesday.

    Game 3 is Saturday night in San Diego.

    Astros v. Padres
    Ricky Gutierrez was caught at second in the second inning, but he came across with the winning run in the ninth. (AP)

    The Astros had taken control of the game thanks to the Killer B's, who finally lived up to their nickname.

    Jeff Bagwell drove in Houston's first three runs and Craig Biggio scored twice. Derek Bell rifled a 3-1 pitch from former Astros reliever Donne Wall into the left-field seats for a leadoff homer in the eighth and a 4-2 lead.

    The B's went 0-for-10 in Tuesday's 2-1 loss after going just 2-for-37 in a sweep by Atlanta in last year's division series.

    On Thursday, they combined to go 3-for-11 with four RBIs and three runs scored. Bell snapped a 0-for-21 postseason slump.

    The Astros snapped a six-game playoff losing streak dating to the 1986 NL championship series against the Mets.

    The Padres almost maintained the momentum from Tuesday, when Kevin Brown struck out 16, the second-most ever in the postseason, to beat Randy Johnson.

    Wagner, who converted 30 of 35 save opportunities in the regular season, allowed Ken Caminiti's single with one out in the ninth. Leyritz pinch-hit for Wally Joyner wit two out, and hit another dramatic postseason homer.

    While with the New York Yankees in 1996, Leyritz hit a dramatic three-run, eighth-inning homer off Atlanta's Mark Wohlers to tie Game 4 of the World Series at 6. The Yankees went on to win the game in 10 innings and the Series in six games.

    The previous year, his 15th-inning home run off Tim Belcher won the Game 2 of the Yankees' first-round series against Seattle.

    Padres starter Andy Ashby lasted just four innings, the fifth time in his last seven starts that he's gone five innings or less. He allowed three runs and six hits, struck out four and walkd one.

    Astros starter Shane Reynolds allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.

    The series shifts to San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium for games Saturday night and Sunday. Left-handers Mike Hampton (11-7) of Houston and Sterling Hitchcock (9-7) are scheduled to start Game 3.

    Biggio singled leading off the first, took third on Spiers' double to left and scored on Bagwell's groundout.

    Biggio walked leading off the second, just ahead of the inning's key play. Spiers lifted a fly ball to center field and Steve Finley tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball bounced just in front of him and skipped away for a double, moving Biggio to third. Bagwell singled to center with one out to score Biggio and Spiers.

    The Padres got two runs with no outs in the sixth. Quilvio Veras hit a leadoff single and scored when Finley doubled off the manual scoreboard on the left field wall. Left fielder Moises Alou slipped as the ball hit the scoreboard and rolled back toward the infield.

    Tony Gwynn singled in Finley, but Reynolds jammed Ken Caminiti for a weak comebacker to start a double play, then struck out Greg Vaughn.

    San Diego right-hander Joey Hamilton, who had been in the running to start Game 3, threw three scoreless innings in relief of of Ashby.

    Notes

  • Padres officials expect a sellout crowd of between 64,000 and 65,000 Saturday night, making it the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game in San Diego.
  • Reynolds didn't walk a batter in his final three starts, but walked Veras leading off the game.
  • Until Brown's performance on Tuesday, no Padres pitcher had struck out more than six batters in a postseason game.
  • The Padres started their opening day lineup for just the 31st time in 164 games.
  • Biggio, a four-time Gold Glove winner, also made a nice play to end the fourth inning, ranging to his left and diving to stop Wally Joyner's grounder, throwing him out. In the second, second baseman Veras gloved Reynolds' two-hopper scooped the ball to shortstop Chris Gomez to start an inning-ending double play.
  • Hamilton made just his fifth career relief appearance.

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