Phillies 4, Astros 3

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HOUSTON (AP)—The Philadelphia Phillies needed an unlikely hero and a late escape Friday night to keep their slim NL East title hopes alive.

Pat Burrell hit a grand slam in the first inning off Roger Clemens and the Phillies survived a nervous ninth to beat the Houston Astros 4-3.

The New York Mets’ magic number to clinch the division remained at one with their 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday and the second-place Phillies’ win. Philadelphia also closed within 1 1/2 games of San Diego, the NL wild-card leader.

The Astros had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth against Tom Gordon.

Aubrey Huff led off with a double down the right field line that first baseman Ryan Howard couldn’t handle. One out later, pinch-hitter Chris Burke beat out an infield single to third and pinch-hitter Jason Lane then hit the fly ball that left fielder Jeff Conine dropped to load the bases.

Gordon got pinch-hitter Humberto Quintero to ground into a double play for his 30th save.

“We wanted to make sure Gordon gets tested good, see if he can pitch when the fire’s on,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said with a smile. “And we had a big fire going.”

Philadelphia starter Brett Myers (11-6) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings to win for the third time in five starts. He was flying to Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday morning to attend the funeral of his grandfather, who died earlier this week.

“Nothing was going to hurt me tonight,” Myers said. “I was out there pitching for my grandpa. I didn’t care if I was in pain or what. I had to go out there and do it, not only for him, but for the team.”

The Astros’ offense again sputtered with Clemens on the mound, mustering four runs or fewer for the ninth time in his 16 starts this season.

“We’re having a tough, tough time,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “They tried every way in the world to give it to us and we couldn’t punch across a run.”

Clemens (6-5) lasted five innings in his first start since straining his right groin in the Astros’ 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sept. 4. He allowed three hits and struck out four, but walked a season-high five.

Clemens admitted later that the injury bothered him.

“I prepared myself as well as I should have, but the ball was running a lot on me,” Clemens said. “Tonight, it was me against me. It’s very disheartening, regardless of how my body feels.”

Morgan Ensberg and Luke Scott homered for the Astros, who have lost four of five as they fade from the wild-card chase.

“We’re way behind the 8-ball,” Clemens said, “and the clip we would have to play at now is incredible.”

With two outs in the first, Clemens walked Chase Utley, Ryan Howard (intentionally) and David Dellucci to load the bases for Burrell, who was hitless in his last 22 at-bats against Houston.

Burrell ripped a 3-2 fastball into the porch in left, his fifth career grand slam and the Phillies’ fourth this season.

Burrell was 3-for-16 on the Phillies’ current road trip and was 2-for-33 in his previous 11 games against Houston.

“We need him to get hot to win this thing,” Myers said of Burrell.

With the one swing, Clemens gave up more than three runs for just the second time this season.

Clemens escaped more trouble in the fourth after Burrell singled and Mike Lieberthal doubled down the left-field line. Lieberthal was back in the lineup after missing 11 games with back spasms.

Clemens walked Myers to load the bases, but Jimmy Rollins grounded into an inning-ending double play.

With one out in the fourth, Ensberg lined a solo homer to left, his 22nd of the season but only his third since July 7. Huff then walked and Scott hit a towering blast into the Astros’ bullpen to cut the Phillies’ lead to 4-3.

Myers allowed only one hit across his final three innings.

“That’s what I felt like I had to do,” he said.


The Phillies snapped a six-game losing streak at Minute Maid Park. … Scott leads the majors with a .379 average since the All-Star break. … Howard has scored a run in 46 of his last 48 games. His strikeout in the third inning snapped a streak of 12 consecutive at-bats in which he had reached base.

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