Behind Roy Oswalt and a home crowd, Houston moves to within a win of the NLCS.
By wire services
Published October 9, 2005
HOUSTON - Roy Oswalt stumbled and fell on his backside right in the middle of the field. Then he got up, reached back and put the Astros in control of their first-round playoff series.
Oswalt, Houston's No. 3 starter, pitched into the eighth inning, striking out seven of the next 12 batters after his awkward spill, and the Astros beat the Braves 7-3 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.
Houston can advance to its second consecutive NL championship series with a victory at home today.
Brandon Backe will pitch for the Astros - but Atlanta manager Bobby Cox did not announce his starter.
Mike Lamb hit a tiebreaking homer in the third for the Astros, who after seven first-round exits from the playoffs are trying to eliminate the Braves in the division series for the second year in a row.
Second baseman Craig Biggio, 39, who has spent his entire career in Houston and last week agreed to a contract for 2006, hit three doubles and scored twice. Morgan Ensberg, who had five RBIs during a 10-5 win in the series opener, added a pair of run-scoring doubles to the delight of a boisterous home crowd.
"Last year we got to really see what our crowds were all about in this building," Biggio said. "They're your 10th guy."
Losing pitcher Jorge Sosa, a reliever-turned-starter, gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings in his first postseason appearance. After joining the Braves' rotation in mid-June, he went 7-0 in 12 road starts.
Oswalt already had wasted a two-run lead when he fell on the mound in the middle of his windup for an 0-2 pitch to Marcus Giles in the third. After getting up and shaking his head, Oswalt threw a 96 mph fastball that Giles swung at and missed.
That was Oswalt's first strikeout, and it got him back on track after a strange sequence in the second inning when the Braves tied the game.
By the time Oswalt left to a standing ovation with one out in the eighth and Giles on first, Houston led 7-2. Andruw Jones hit a run-scoring double off reliever Dan Wheeler, but that was all the Braves got. Brad Lidge closed it out in the ninth.
Atlanta has won 14 straight division titles, but hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2001.