10/09/05 12:36 AM ET
Astros short hops
Good things happen when Houston scores first
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Through three games in the National League Division Series against the Braves, they're right on track.
Houston has scored in the first inning of all three games in this series (one in Game 1, one in Game 2 and two in Game 3) and has a two-games-to-one lead over Atlanta. One more win would push the Astros into their second consecutive NL Championship Series.
The Astros were 66-24 when scoring first during the regular season, a 73-percent success rate. They outscored opponents, 106-79, in the opening frame, and the only inning in which they scored more was the sixth (118 runs).
The first-inning rally started with a Craig Biggio double, one of three two-baggers by the veteran and one of seven by Astros batters. That's an NLDS record, besting the five doubles by Cincinnati Reds hitters on Oct. 3, 1995.
Houston also set a record with eight extra-base hits. The previous mark was seven, by the Astros on Oct. 11, 2004, and the Cardinals on Oct. 5, 2000.
A look at key statistics through Game 3 of the NLDS.
|ERA||5.19||Oswalt, Pettitte taking care of business|
|BA||.320||12 hits in Game 3 put it out of reach|
|BA w/ RISP||.379 (11-for-29)||13 opportunities in Game 3|
|Runs||18||Braves bullpen looking shaky|
|Craig Biggio||.500 BA, 5 R, 4 2B||Doubles machine keeps on running|
|Morgan Ensberg||.417 BA||Leads club with 7 RBIs|
|Brad Ausmus||.167 BA, 3 TB||Bottom of the lineup needs a spark|
Behind the numbers
Willy Taveras had 70 infield hits in the regular season, including a number of bunt hits and seven sacrifice bunts. But he was twice unable to drop a bunt in Game 3, though neither miss hurt the Astros too badly. In the first, his at-bat ended in a strikeout, but the team went on to score a pair of runs. In the seventh, he botched two bunts but then chopped an infield single over pitcher Chris Reitsma's head as the Astros rolled to four runs.
Roy Oswalt struggled early on to get a feel for home plate umpire Jeff Nelson's strike zone, and for the mound itself. He was called for a strange balk in the second inning, then actually fell down on an 0-1 strike to Marcus Giles in the third. But on the next pitch, Oswalt got a called strike three and seemed to build momentum from there.
The Astros had two on, two outs and were clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Oswalt was the hitter and, at the 91-pitch mark, might have been lifted for a pinch-hitter. But manager Phil Garner stuck with his starter, who grounded out to end the inning but gave the Astros four more outs while they built a big lead.
The sight of No. 7 standing at second base was nothing new to Astros fans. Biggio hit 40 doubles during the regular season and has 604 in his career, good for 11th all-time. He hit No. 600 on Sept. 10 at Milwaukee, becoming the only player in Major League history with 600 doubles, 250 home runs, 2,700 hits and 400 stolen bases.
"We don't think, 'Oh, we've got this guy on short rest. We beat him once.' It doesn't work that way. We've got to go out there and play the game."
-- Lance Berkman, on facing Tim Hudson in Game 4
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.