Ausmus lifts Astros over Athletics

Ausmus lifts Astros over Athletics

HOUSTON -- When Roy Oswalt gives up three early runs, Brad Lidge blows a save, Lance Berkman misses a game with a suspension and Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence combine for just one hit, the odds of the Astros winning probably aren't very high.

Fortunately, the unexpected finally happened in a good way for the Astros on Tuesday night, with Brad Ausmus delivering a game-winning, one-out RBI single to left in the bottom of the 11th inning, scoring Adam Everett and sending Houston to a 5-4 victory over Oakland in front of 33,637 fans at Minute Maid Park.

Ausmus finished 3-for-5 with a double and a home run and drove in four of the five runs.

"It's always nice to come through for your team," Ausmus said. "It's even nicer to get a win. I don't have a lot of days like that [where he sees the ball well]. They're enjoyable when they come around."

Everett doubled with one out in the 11th to set up the winning hit.

"It makes us feel really good," Everett said of the win. "Any time we can contribute [at the bottom of the order], that's nice. Lots of times you get caught up in what the big guns are doing at the top of the order, but we can win games just as easily as they can. We finally put some good at-bats together and won the game."

It looked like it might come much easier for the Astros for much of the night. After Ausmus homered off the left-field foul pole -- his first of the year -- in the fourth, the Astros had a 4-3 lead and seemed in command with strong pitching from Oswalt, Trever Miller and Dan Wheeler.

But in Lidge's first opportunity to shut the door in his new stint as the closer, he hung an 0-2 slider to Mark Kotsay, who led off the ninth by yanking it into the right-field bleachers for a home run to tie the game.

"I was surprised," manager Phil Garner said of Lidge's mistake. "He's been throwing so well. But he has to stay on task and stay within himself. He got overamped and tried to make a superhuman slider, when he only had to throw a nice one. He flew open, and when he does that, his arm drops down, the ball goes up and it doesn't have much on it."

Mark Ellis followed with a double down the right-field line and advanced to third base as the go-ahead run with no one out and the heart of the Oakland order batting.

It seemed the classic setup for a Lidge meltdown. Instead, Lidge buckled down and pitched like the dominant reliever he's been for much of the year, striking out Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez in succession and inducing a weak popout to shortstop from Bobby Crosby to end the inning, stranding the potential winning run at third.

"I was real happy to come back," Lidge said. "With the [go-ahead] runner on third and nobody out, I knew it was going to take some real work. But I relied on what I've been doing and I was able to get those guys out.

"I still feel locked in, so I didn't want to change anything. I just wanted to keep doing what I've been doing all year and not get out of my game plan. I was real happy with how the inning ended and happy we were able to come back and get a win."

Dave Borkowski (1-0) pitched two tremendous innings in the 10th and 11th and picked up the win, striking out the side in the latter inning and keeping the game tied before Ausmus delivered.

"[Oakland] notoriously takes pitches," Borkowski said. "You've got to get ahead of them and get a couple of strikes on them, so now they have to swing at your pitch. The whole object is to get ahead of them and kind of turn the table on them and make them aggressive."

Oswalt got in trouble in the second inning, when Oakland starter Joe Kennedy helped his own cause by drilling a two-out, two-run double to deep center to put the A's in front again, 2-1. Two batters later, Ellis singled in Kennedy to extend the lead.

But Oswalt took charge after that, striking out a season-best 10 and holding the Oakland offense scoreless for the remainder of his six innings.

"In the second inning, I gave up too many walks, and then the pitcher had the hardest hit of the night," Oswalt said. "But I was able to stay in there and get in rhythm. I hadn't had my curveball [in a while], and it feels good when you have it."

Craig Biggio rebounded from his slow start to June with a 3-for-5 performance, including a double. He scored the game's first run when he scored on a first-inning sacrifice fly from Lee. The three hits raised his career hit total to 2,983, just 17 short of 3,000.

Before the game, Berkman dropped the appeal of his two-game suspension and served the first of it Tuesday night. Counting the two games when he was ejected early, the Astros are now 3-0 in games when the first baseman misses time because of discipline issues.

"We're going to appeal the suspension and see if it can last longer," Garner joked after the game.

Kennedy allowed four runs on six hits in five innings, squandering the 3-1 lead given to him early on. Kotsay led the way for the Oakland offense, going 4-for-5 with a double and the home run.

Ben DuBose is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.