The Astros needed 10 innings to top a Rangers club they dominated through much of the game. They had to mount two comebacks against a bullpen that's been about as effective as the Astros' these days, and thanks to a well-timed offensive surge, Houston prevailed.
Craig Biggio had three hits, with the last one making the biggest difference. He doubled off C.J. Wilson in the 10th inning, driving in Morgan Ensberg to begin a three-run frame that lifted the Astros to the win.
Hunter Pence, who had four hits and four runs scored on the night, followed Biggio's double with a base hit to center, and Lance Berkman followed with another single to the same area, driving in Biggio. Mark Loretta drove in the final run with a bases-loaded grounder that forced Carlos Lee at second.
Biggio's double inched him closer to the 3,000-hit milestone and also made him the all-time leader in doubles among right-handed hitters, but most importantly, it won the game.
"I knew it was going to be real close and bang-bang, and I was glad we got the call and got into scoring position," Biggio said. "It gave us a one-run lead and Lance came through after that. It was a pretty emotional day if you watched that game."
Said manager Phil Garner: "That was the good, the bad and the ugly. The good was we won. That was the ultimate of winning ugly, I guess. The good news is our offense just stepped up and did one super, super job and pulled it out for us."
Dan Wheeler got the win, and he'd probably be the first to admit he was most undeserving of this one.
"Right now, a ball over the plate with me, it's just getting hit," he said. "I'm not blaming it on anything, but it's just not going very well. This is just something I'll have to get through, continue to battle and go from there."
The Astros seemingly bailed him out in the next frame. Pence knocked a leadoff double off Eric Gagne, and Berkman followed with a walk. Pence advanced to third on Carlos Lee's flyout to deep center, and both runners scored on Loretta's double to center. Advantage, Astros, 9-7.
But Wheeler gave it right back, yielding a leadoff homer to pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd. The Rangers tied it with two outs on an Ian Kinsler solo shot into the Astros' bullpen in left-center.
Garner knew he was probably going to need Wheeler for more than three outs, but this isn't how he envisioned the final stages playing out. Rick White had yielded back-to-back hits to begin the eighth, forcing Garner to turn to Wheeler earlier than he wanted.
"Look what's happened the last few days," Garner said. "We have had a hard time stopping something when it's going. I'd have hoped we'd get a couple outs. If we got somebody on base, I was going to bring him in to get an out or two in the eighth, but we didn't even get there. We had to get him in."
Fortunately for Wheeler, his offense compensated for his shortcomings.
"I felt like we were on cruise control there ... and they made a nice run to tie it up," Loretta said. "It was pretty deflating when they came back again to tie it again when we ended up going ahead. But we persevered. That's all you can do, try to grind it out. It was a good win. That would have been a tough one to lose."
The two blown leads denied Chris Sampson his seventh win. He left with a healthy 7-3 lead after limiting the Rangers to three runs on five hits over seven frames.
Sampson yielded a two-run homer to Kenny Lofton in the third, and with two outs in the fourth, he hit Gerald Laird with a pitch before allowing consecutive singles to Brad Wilkerson and Jerry Hairston, accounting for the Rangers' third run.
"When they tied it up, my first thought was, 'Well, I just hope we can come back and win the game,'" Sampson said. "That's the most important thing. Just winning the game."
Said Garner: "It's a shame he doesn't get the win, but the the bottom line is the team gets the win tonight. He pitched great. He did a nice job."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less