04/05/2004 10:12 PM ET
Bonds, Giants spoil Astros' opener
San Francisco edges Houston with late-inning rally
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Some may look back at Monday's game and blame Octavio Dotel for the Houston Astros' 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Some may blame manager Jimy Williams. Some may just blame dumb luck and a very good hitter named Barry Bonds.
But ask Roy Oswalt about Monday's game, and he points fingers at no one, except himself.
Yes, it was Oswalt who gave up a three-run homer to Bonds in the eighth inning that allowed the Giants to tie the game at 4. But wasn't it Williams who contemplated lifting him but didn't, and wasn't it Dotel who let the Giants plate the winning run in the ninth, despite the visiting team not recording a single hit?
It doesn't matter, contended Oswalt. A starting pitcher should never lose a game in the eighth inning. Ever.
"You pitch seven innings and going into the eighth with a lead, you can't get beat that late," he said. "You have to pitch around a guy or make them swing at a bad pitch. You can't give them something to hit where it ties up a game."
Oswalt was disgusted with himself not only for the home run, but for allowing base hits to Ray Durham and Michael Tucker that gave Bonds the opportunity to tie the game. And he was disgusted with himself for convincing Williams to leave him in to pitch to Bonds and then not delivering his end of the deal.
During the meeting on the mound with Bonds looming at the plate, Williams first asked Oswalt if he had enough left for one batter. Oswalt said yes, and Williams left him in -- after reminding him not to get beaten "by one guy."
"Roy was still throwing the ball good," Williams said. "He was throwing 95 miles an hour and he wasn't pushed from a pitch count standpoint. And I stayed with him. We all know Bonds, but I still had a good feeling about Roy."
"He just asked if I had enough in me for one more guy," Oswalt said. "And I felt like I did."
But, of course, this isn't just any ordinary hitter. This is Bonds, whose homer was the 659th of his career. One more and he ties Willie Mays for third on the all-time list.
"I told myself I would go out in the eighth and if I got the first three guys, I wouldn't have to face Bonds," Oswalt said. "I messed up from the word 'go.' I got a man on, had to pitch from the stretch. If I had two outs, we wouldn't have pitched to him.
"This type of game, I felt like I could throw the ball away and maybe get him to hit it to center. Maybe a fly ball, double play, something. I didn't think it would go out, especially with the ball away like that. Usually, if a guy pulls a ball like that, he doesn't have enough power to get it out. There's a few exceptions in the game, and he may be one of them."
With that explanation, Oswalt repeated his earlier conviction that this loss was his fault.
"I've said it 5,000 times, you can't get beat in the eighth inning as a starting pitcher," he said. "If a guy comes in out of the bullpen and gives up a three-run bomb, it's different. He hasn't been in the game. He doesn't have a feel of the game."
Maybe that was Dotel's issue. He entered in the ninth and hit pinch-hitter Tony Torcato, the first batter he faced. After Durham's sacrifice bunt, Dotel threw a wild pitch that allowed Torcato to move to third. J.T. Snow's sacrifice fly gave the Giants the only insurance they would need to squash the good Opening Day feelings flowing through 43,351 fans who represented the fourth-largest crowd in the four-year history of Minute Maid Park.
"I wanted to go in with my fastball," Dotel said of his pitch to Snow. "I missed it right there in the middle and he got a fly ball.
"Every game's hard to lose. It doesn't matter if it's the first or last. Every game is tough to lose, especially with this team."
The late-game turn of events put a damper on what was an otherwise perfect night -- open roof, packed house, ace of the staff on the mound, spine-tingling reception when Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were announced during pregame introductions.
And the Astros, as expected, came out swinging. They produced seven baserunners in the first two innings, but were able to push across only one run when Brad Ausmus knocked a base hit off Kirk Rueter to score Morgan Ensberg from second.
Richard Hidalgo broke the tie in the sixth with a leadoff homer off Rueter, and the Astros added a pair of runs in the seventh behind a Jeff Kent sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Hidalgo.
But then came Bonds' reminder that he was a .395 hitter at Minute Maid Park entering this contest -- 15-for-38, with five homers.
"For us, it's kind of tough right now but tomorrow's another day," Dotel said. "It's just the first game of the season, so there's nothing to worry about."
|Barry Bonds slides into third base ahead of the tag of Morgan Ensberg. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.