Another late-inning rally kept Houston alive and confident about the NL wild-card race.

Friday, August 20th 2004, 8:06 am
By: News On 6

(AP)_Eric Bruntlett, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman homered during a seven-run rally in the seventh inning and the Houston Astros turned a game-changing triple play to beat Philadelphia 12-10 Thursday, sending the Phillies to their seventh straight loss. "We need wins more than anything, but this also shows how we can come back," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "Emotions are real high right now."

The Phillies led 7-2 in the fifth when Todd Pratt grounded into a bases-loaded triple play, the first turned by Houston in 13 years. The Astros, hoping to hang on in the NL wild-card race, swept the three-game series and won their fourth in a row and finished 5-4 on their road trip.

Philadelphia finished a 1-9 homestand and gave manager Larry Bowa another reason to worry about his job a day after general manager Ed Wade declined to give him an endorsement.

The Phillies matched a team record for most losses on a homestand -they went 1-9-1 in 1941 at Connie Mack Stadium. The Phillies were coming off a 5-1 end to a West Coast trip, making the collapse even more puzzling.

"Nobody in their right mind thought we'd go 1-9 at home," losing pitcher Roberto Hernandez said.

Elsewhere in the National League on Thursday, it was: Atlanta 6, Los Angeles 5; Chicago Cubs 9, Milwaukee 6; Houston 12, Philadelphia 10; N.Y. Mets 10-4, Colorado 3-2; Pittsburgh 3, St. Louis 2 (10 innings).

At Philadelphia, Chad Qualls (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless sixth and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 17 chances.

Phillies starter Brett Myers took a 7-3 lead into the seventh, then allowed a two-run homer to Biggio. Myers was pulled after Carlos Beltran's bunt single, and it all fell apart for the Phillies.

Hernandez (2-4), the most maligned pitcher by the Philly faithful, heard the boos cascade down after Berkman's homer tied it 7-7.

Hernandez left with his head down to a louder, angrier chorus of boos after walking Mike Lamb and allowing a single to Morgan Ensberg. Rheal Cormier of Shediac, N.B., relieved and promptly gave up a three-run shot by Bruntlett.

"It's nice to win three in a row here and this was a huge win for us," Bruntlett said. "They're all huge now. That was a momentum swinger for us."

Jeff Kent added a two-run double off Felix Rodriguez in the eighth.

The Phillies bullpen has been weakened without setup man Ryan Madson and closer Billy Wagner. Neither are expected back soon. Both could have been used on the homestand -the Phillies lost five games with a lead in the seventh inning.

"It doesn't matter who we bring in," a glum Bowa said. "It gets demoralizing when you do put up runs and they come right back."

Bowa had another simple explanation for the bullpen's fizzle: An overworked staff clinging to close leads in a homer-friendly park.

"I don't think anyone's going to admit it, but the park is in a lot of pitcher's heads," he said.

Bowa also said he had no inkling his job was on the line after a pre-game chat with Wade.

The Phillies rallied for three in the eighth off Kirk Bullinger to make it 12-10 on Doug Glanville's RBI single and Bobby Abreu's second two-run double of the game.

Jim Thome was intentionally walked, but Dan Miceli got David Bell to ground out to end the inning.

Thome earlier hit his 36th homer for the fading Phillies.

Abreu gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead with a two-run double in the third off Carlos Hernandez. Thome followed with a two-run shot that just sneaked inside the right-field foul pole.

Lou Collier hit a solo shot to left and Bell added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 7-2.

The Phillies could have broken open the game in the fifth, chasing Hernandez and loading the bases with no outs when reliever David Weathers hit Marlon Byrd with a pitch.

Pratt followed with a grounder to Ensberg, who stepped on third base and threw to Kent. The second baseman's relay to Lamb completed the Astros' first triple play since Aug. 4, 1991.

"I'm just trying to make contact," Pratt said. "I'm not the fastest runner. It set up perfectly."

Lamb led off the second with a double and later stole home as part of a double steal.

Cubs 9, Brewers 6

At Milwaukee, Greg Maddux overcame a shaky start to earn his 301st win, and Sammy Sosa hit one of Chicago's three homers to help the Cubs beat the Brewers.

Mets 10, Rockies 3, 1st game

Mets 4, Rockies 2, 2nd game

At Denver, David Wright hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the ninth inning to help New York complete a doubleheader sweep.

The Mets won the opener behind the pitching of Kris Benson (10-9) and Mike Cameron's four RBIs, then tied the nightcap on Eric Valent's leadoff homer in the eighth against Tim Harikkala.

The second game was delayed for 13 minutes in the fourth inning when most of the lights around Coors Field went out. Mike Stanton (1-5) earned the win.

Pirates 3, Cardinals 2, 10 innings

At St. Louis, Scott Rolen's second error of the game allowed the go-ahead run to score in the 10th inning, and Pittsburgh beat the Cardinals.

Braves 6, Dodgers 5

At Los Angeles, Johnny Estrada homered, drove in three runs and started Atlanta's go-ahead rally in the ninth inning, and the Braves beat Montreal native Eric Gagne.