Bagwell hit a two-run homer that landed on a street outside Minute Maid Park and the Astros overcame a sloppy start, remaining in a tie atop the NL wild-card standings with a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
“Baggy is just awesome,” said Craig Biggio, Bagwell’s teammate for 14 years. “Nothing he does ever surprises me.”
The Astros stayed even with the San Francisco Giants, who beat the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in the opener of a three-game series. Houston, which has won a club-record 16 straight at home, moved two games ahead of the Chicago Cubs, who’ve lost four straight and six of seven.
Mike Gallo (2-0) earned the win by getting the last out of the third inning, and Brad Lidge got three outs for his 28th save. They were two of seven pitchers to hold off the Rockies for Houston’s seventh win in eight games, and 11th in 14.
“Baggy’s clutch home run was the big blow and everybody was fantastic,” Lidge said. “Every game is the most important game of the season right now.”
The Astros are trying to avoid a repeat of last season, when they needed to win three of their final four games against last-place Milwaukee to force a division tiebreaker with the Cubs. The Astros went 2-2 against the Brewers, allowing Chicago to capture the NL Central title.
This year, Chicago is bolstering the Astros’ playoff hopes with a late-season swoon.
“They’ve got a lot of energy and their fans have a lot of energy,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “I played on a couple of teams like that, where you just know something good is going to happen.”
Joe Kennedy (9-7) was denied a chance at tying a career high with his fourth straight victory, allowing four runs on eight hits in eight innings.
Houston got off to a poor start against the lowly Rockies. Craig Biggio badly misplayed a fly ball to left with two outs in the first, Morgan Ensberg was caught stealing in the second and starter Pete Munro’s wild pitch allowed Clint Barmes to score in the third.
“We made mistakes early, but we recovered,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “That’s what’s going to happen when you play 162 games. You don’t like it, but you know it’s going to happen.”
The Astros got two quick outs to start their half of the inning when Brad Ausmus popped out to first and Jason Alfaro grounded out to short. Biggio walked in the next at-bat, Carlos Beltran doubled and Biggio scored on Kennedy’s wild pitch to tie it at 1.
Bagwell followed with his 27th homer. The ball hit the railroad tracks in left center and bounced out of the ballpark onto Crawford Street.
“That was big,” said Bagwell, who has struggled with a degenerative condition in his right shoulder this season. “Because everyone knows how my arm is.”
Said Kennedy: “I got it down exactly where he wants it and he almost hit it out of the stadium. He’s a good hitter. He’s been doing that for a long time.”
Helton’s sacrifice fly to left scored Barmes in the fifth.
The Astros scored again in the seventh, but missed a chance to add more runs with the bases loaded. Jason Lane singled in pinch-runner Adam Everett, Biggio doubled and Bagwell was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. But Kennedy struck out Lance Berkman on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
Helton extended his hitting streak to 11 games, tying a season high. … The Astros have drawn 3,001,511 fans through 80 games this season, surpassing the 3 million mark for the second time in club history. The first time came in 2000, the Astros’ first season at Minute Maid Park. … Lidge’s 153 strikeouts tied an NL record for relievers with Philadelphia’s Dick Selma in 1970.