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HOU@PHI: Myers keeps the Phils in check through seven

PHILADELPHIA -- The Astros had played about as flawlessly as they could have hoped through eight innings Friday afternoon, building an early four-run lead against the vaunted Phillies. They had clutch at-bats throughout the lineup, played solid defense and got a terrific starting performance from Brett Myers.

It all came crashing down in a matter of minutes in the ninth inning.

The Phillies spoiled Opening Day for the Astros, rallying for three runs -- on the strength of six singles -- in the bottom of the ninth against closer Brandon Lyon to steal a dramatic 5-4 victory on a cold, gray afternoon at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

The loss was the Astros' fifth in a row on Opening Day and snapped their five-game winning streak in Philadelphia.

"The guys played really well," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We played a real clean game, we played a hard game. You can't take anything away from them at all."

Lyon, who blew just two saves in 22 chances last year, was called upon to protect a two-run lead in the ninth. Myers delivered seven solid innings in his first Opening Day start with the Astros, and Wilton Lopez worked a scoreless eighth.

"The thing about baseball is you've got to get over it, because the next day is coming very soon," Astros center fielder Michael Bourn said. "We'll try to get some sleep and be ready for Cliff Lee [on Saturday]. It's another tough ballgame. Each game we're here, it's a tough battle. They didn't give up in the bottom of the ninth and were able to come out with a win."

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard began the ninth with singles, and Lyon got Raul Ibanez to pop out before giving up four consecutive singles, with Ben Francisco and Wilson Valdez tying the game with RBI hits. None of the balls in the ninth were hit particularly hard until John Mayberry Jr. laced a bases-loaded single over the head of Bourn in center to score the winning run.

"I left some balls on the plate that I didn't want to, and when you make those pitches they're going to hit them," Lyon said. "They found some holes, and in this game that's what's going to happen if you don't make the pitches."

The loss was especially frustrating for the Astros, considering they had built a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning in a game started by Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who's about as dominant as any pitcher in the game right now.

"It's Game 1, and they got the win and earned it," Astros right fielder Hunter Pence said. "They came back in the clutch. We come out and compete every day, and you build off that and you learn. That's what you're going to see all year long -- good, hard-nosed baseball."

The Astros took the persona of their starter Friday. Myers, making his fourth Opening Day start at Citizens Bank Park in five years, gave his former team fits with a gritty performance. He worked seven innings and allowed just three hits and two runs (one earned), throwing an incredibly efficient 85 pitches.

"I want them to hit the ball as quick as possible," said Myers, who also went 2-for-2 at the plate and had a sacrifice bunt. "I want to get out of there with the least amount of pitches I can, and I was able to do that for the most part today, and just tried to throw strikes and hopefully hit my spots and go from there."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sees a different Myers than the one he managed.

"I think that his days of throwing 95 [mph] have come and gone," he said. "I think that's he's a better pitcher now. He mixes up his pitches. He threw some hooks, cutters, fastballs. He threw a few changeups. He kept us off balance. He made us make outs. It wasn't like he was overpowering. He pitched."

The Astros broke through against Halladay in the sixth when Bill Hall drove in a run with a groundout to make it 1-0. A two-run triple in the seventh by Bourn off reliever David Herndon gave the Astros a 3-0 lead, and Bourn scored on a sacrifice fly by Angel Sanchez (2-for-4) to stun the sellout crowd of 45,237.

In taking a 4-0 lead, the Astros turned a double play in the second,and they got a nice defensive play from third baseman Chris Johnson when he snagged a Francisco line drive in the fifth. Catcher Humberto Quintero threw from his knees to catch Shane Victorino trying to steal second base in the sixth.

Houston worked counts against Halladay and ran his pitch count up to 101, before he was forced to leave the game for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. The game wound up getting away from the Astros, but Pence saw plenty of things that made him encouraged.

"I feel like we came out with energy, and everybody had each other's backs," Pence said. "We came out and fought and competed. They came through and found some holes at the end, and we weren't able to get the final outs. We're going to keep battling and playing hard. I was pretty happy with what we did today." Comments