Through the Motions: Astros 5, Phillies 3

It would be inaccurate to describe tonight's Phillies game against the Houston Astros as totally inconsequential: playoff seeding is still at stake, and with the Cardinals' 13-0 win earlier today, the Phils are just a game up on St. Louis in the battle for home field advantage in the first round and possibly the league championship series. But after emotional wins the previous two nights culminating in Wednesday's celebration of a third straight division championship, things inevitably felt a bit pro forma. The fact of Eric Bruntlett batting second didn't help, both in terms of investing the game with meaning or contributing to the Phillies winning said game.

Cliff Lee made his last start before a likely Game One bow, and sandwiched four mostly excellent innings between two bad ones. He surrendered a two-run double to Lance Berkman in the first inning, and a two-run homer to Miguel Tejada in the sixth, plus two more hits before giving way to Clay Condrey. Lee did strike out six, and his departure after 89 pitches on top of the 226 innings he'd thrown this season before tonight's game suggested that Charlie Manuel's major concern was getting his star lefty through the evening intact. Brett Myers made his return to action in the seventh, allowing three hits and a run; Tyler Walker and Sergio Escalona, both on the bubble for a playoff roster spot, finished with a clean inning each. 

Offensively, Ben Francisco starred filling in for Shane Victorino with three hits, including two doubles, and a walk; Bruntlett, in for Chase Utley, didn't fare as well with an 0 for 5 performance and a disproportionate share in the team's 13 men left on base. Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz each had two hits; presumably they'll both get an off-day or two this weekend, as might Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, who played tonight as well. 

The split of this four-game series gave Houston six wins in eight tries against the Phillies this season, as the Astros continued their baffling dominance of recent years. Hopefully this will be of some consolation next week when they're watching the playoffs at home. 

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