Astros take down Rockies
DENVER ” Craig Biggio’s arm guard is headed to the Hall of Fame.
The way Houston Astros manager Phil Garner sees it, the player won’t be far behind.
Biggio set the modern record for being hit by pitches and added a solo homer, helping Roy Oswalt win his fourth straight start in Houston’s 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
“When you look at where he stands (with) offensive numbers, he’s pretty impressive,” Garner said. “The guys that are ahead of him are baseball icons that live forever. The guys that he’s passed and he continues to pass are baseball icons too. So he’s in high cotton he deserves to be there.”
Biggio was hit on the left elbow in the fourth inning by Byung-Hyun Kim, breaking Don Baylor’s post-1900 record of 267 times hit by pitches. Biggio calmly turned and trotted to first as he had so many other times, but this time he pointed to the ball and asked the ball boy to send it back to the Astros’ dugout as a keepsake for his years of pain.
“Anybody that’s been hit that many times, you have no understanding about how many times that is and how painful it is over the years,” said Biggio, who had two hits to move into 52nd place with 2,718.
Many of the fans at Coors Field gave Biggio a standing ovation, and Cooperstown asked for his arm guard. As for the ball, it’s headed home to his kids.
“My kids collect a bunch of stuff, it’s amazing,” Biggio said. “We have a rotation going on, I don’t know if it’s my daughter’s or my oldest boy’s ” somebody is going to get it. They treat everything with respect, they respect the game.”
Baylor, now a Seattle Mariners coach, complimented Biggio.
“It was an honor to watch him play,” Baylor said before the Mariners played Oakland. “I’ve always liked his style. When he became a free agent, I tried to lure him to Colorado.”
He didn’t mind Biggio breaking the record wearing protective gear.
“It’s all right. I had a lot of close calls,” Baylor said. “Body parts are not going to Cooperstown. I got hit in the elbow, the back, the head, the shins. You play and prepare for the next at-bat. I never missed a game or an at-bat because of it, but I charged the mound a few times.”
Houston did plenty of damage to the Rockies, too, getting 12 hits for its seventh win in nine games. Morgan Ensberg hit his 20th homer, Jason Lane added 13th and Lance Berkman had three hits to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
Kim (2-7) kept the Rockies close despite his usual control problems, but Colorado had trouble against Oswalt (10-7).
The right-hander gave up a two-out double to Todd Helton in the first inning, but allowed just one more runner to reach second. Oswalt gave up six hits, struck out six and walked just one. He hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in nine of his last 10 starts and has given up three runs and 21 hits in 32 1-3 innings during his win streak.
“He is one of the best,” Colorado’s Brad Hawpe said. “The combination of hard stuff and offspeed stuff make him that way ” he varies his speed so well. And he’s a tough competitor.”
Especially against the Rockies.
He’s 5-0 against Colorado and has had particular success at Coors Field, where he’s 2-0 with a 1.92 ERA. Oswalt said the key has been lowering his release point to fight the effects of Denver’s thin air.
The adjustment caused him to jam his fingers on the mound after a curveball in the fifth inning, but it clearly works.
“The thing about this park is you can’t throw your curveball with your regular release point, you’ve got to throw it a little bit further out,” said Oswalt, who tied Eric Gagne, Jay Powell and Bill Swift for most wins against the Rockies without a loss. “You don’t have the bite that you have other places, so you have to compensate with speed and location.”
Chad Qualls pitched the eighth and Colorado finally got a run in the ninth on J.D. Closser’s groundout off Mike Burns. That led to sarcastic cheers from the fans, who spent most of the early innings booing as the Astros rounded the bases like it was batting practice.
Knowing that Closser has struggled at throwing out runners this season, Houston ran at nearly every opportunity. The Astros stole six bases, including three by Chris Burke. Two came in the fourth inning and one in the second on a play in which Closser threw the ball into center for an error that allowed Houston’s second run.
“I think they took advantage of the situation,” said Closser, 2-for-31 throwing out runners after nabbing 5 of 23 last season. “I don’t think it is any one guy teams go after. It was a situation they took advantage of and they were successful.”
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle called Kim effectively wild in previous start ” a 12-4 Colorado victory over Kansas City on Friday ” and this one looked pretty much the same.
Kim struck out five in five innings, but also walked three and hit Biggio and Berkman on consecutive pitches in the fourth inning. But like he has so many time as a starter this season, Kim limited the damage. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Ensberg to pop out and gave up just three runs ” two earned ” despite allowing 11 runners.
“The pitch count was inefficient to say the least,” Hurdle said. “He had two good starts, but today was a mixed bag.”
Marcos Carvajal wasn’t any better. He gave up a solo homer to Biggio in the sixth inning, then Ensberg, who hit a grand slam Tuesday night, followed Berkman’s double with a two-run homer that landed on the concourse just inside the foul pole in left.
Berkman put Houston up 7-0 in the eighth with an RBI double off Jay Witasick.
Berkman is 15-for-32 during his hitting streak. … Ensberg has 28 RBIs in June, one shy of the team record for the month. Jose Cruz had 29 RBIs in 1984. … Helton extended his hitting streak to eight games and reached 20 doubles for the eighth straight season.
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