Astros 5, Phillies 4

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The surging Houston Astros have put their vacation plans on hold.

Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb’s infield single drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, lifting the Astros to their sixth straight victory, 5-4 over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.

The Phillies (82-74) dropped into a tie with Los Angeles for the NL wild-card lead. Both teams have six games remaining in the regular season—all on the road.

Meanwhile, the Astros (78-78) moved within 2 1/2 games of NL Central-leading St. Louis. Houston swept a four-game series against the Cardinals last weekend to cut the gap.

A week ago, the Astros were 8 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and getting ready to break out their golf clubs and hit the beaches. Now, they’re putting pressure on St. Louis, which has lost six straight.

Players were glued to the television in the clubhouse watching the final inning of San Diego’s 6-5 win in St. Louis. It made the one-day trip to Philadelphia to make up a Sept. 5 rainout worth the trouble.

“It turned out to be best for us,” said manager Phil Garner, whose team didn’t arrive in Philadelphia until shortly before 4 a.m. EDT. “It worked out.”

Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run homer off Dave Borkowski to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead in the sixth, but the Astros answered against a trio of relievers in the seventh.

Rick White got one out before walking Morgan Ensberg. Matt Smith (0-1) entered and struck out Lance Berkman, but walked Luke Scott and Chris Burke. Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro followed with a tying, two-run single to left off Geoff Geary. Burke went to third on the play when left fielder Pat Burrell’s throw home skipped past catcher Mike Lieberthal for an error.

Burke scored the go-ahead run on Lamb’s sharp single off second baseman Utley’s glove. Utley dove to his left to stop the ball, but couldn’t control it.

“We got six games to play and it’s a tie,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We have to keep winning. We didn’t let anything slip away yet.”

Borkowski (3-2) allowed two runs in one inning, but got the win. Chad Qualls retired his only batter, pinch-hitter Chris Coste, to leave a runner on third in the eighth. Dan Wheeler pitched the ninth for his eighth save, getting Utley on a game-ending popup that left Ryan Howard on deck.

Houston used nine pitchers.

“I can’t even read my lineup card,” Garner said.

After falling behind 2-1, the Astros tied it on Jason Lane’s solo shot with one out in the sixth off Phillies starter Randy Wolf. Lane lined one into the seats in right-center for his 15th homer.

But Rollins drove his 25th homer into the seats in right-center to put Philadelphia ahead.

Rollins pointed to teammates in the dugout as he began his jog around the bases and earned a curtain call from the sellout crowd of 44,688 at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies scored two runs off Wandy Rodriguez in the fifth. With the crowd chanting “M-V-P!” and standing the entire at-bat, Howard ripped a single up the middle on a 1-2 pitch to score two runs, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Ensberg’s sacrifice fly in the fifth drove in the first run.

Philadelphia left the bases loaded twice. Lieberthal fouled out to catcher Humberto Quintero to end the fourth and Burrell hit a shallow fly to right in the sixth.

“We have a resilient group,” Wolf said. “We have a good mix of young guys and veterans who keep a cool head.”

The Phillies play three games at Washington and Florida, while the Dodgers have three games in Colorado and San Francisco. If the teams finish tied, a one-game playoff would be played next Monday in Philadelphia.

The Astros finish with three games in Pittsburgh and three in Atlanta.

“We can play with anybody,” Palmeiro said.

Chris Sampson made his second career start for the Astros, lasting 3 2-3 innings and allowing three hits.

Notes

It was the 17th sellout of the season for the Phillies, pushing the final attendance to 2,701,815, the third-highest total in team history. … Howard, who leads the majors with 58 homers, tied Chuck Klein (1929) for fourth place on the club’s single-season list for RBIs with 145. … Wolf remained 4-0 and hasn’t lost since May 4, 2005, a span of 18 starts. The Phillies fell to 13-3 in his last 16 starts.

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