Steady Buchanan helps Phillies overpower Astros

Chase Utley gets a tap from teammate David Buchanan after Utley hit a three-run home run against the Houston Astros. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

David Buchanan's first career hit bounced twice in the outfield grass at Citizens Bank Park, and the rookie pitcher kept running. He did not stop until he was tagged out at second base for the final out of the first inning.

Buchanan's overexuberant run may have been the biggest mistake he made Wednesday night in the Phillies' 10-3 win over the Houston Astros. For that he can be excused; he had plenty of reasons to be eager.

Six days had passed since Cliff Lee stepped off the mound, pointed at his strained elbow, and waved his arms in surrender. The consequences for his season and the Phillies' chances of trading him were as clear as the expletive he muttered.

The moment also had a crystallizing effect on Buchanan. He had vacated the rotation, sent to the minors to make room for Lee. Now he would have two months to prove he should not leave it next season.

One game will not make a referendum, but Buchanan's effort was promising enough. For his seventh straight major-league start, Buchanan allowed three earned runs or fewer.

"He hangs in there, is what he does," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He makes some pitches, and, before you know it, he does a good job for us and gives us a chance to win."

Buchanan did not dominate, but he protected the four-run lead he was given in the first inning. Buchanan threw 61/3 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits. He walked none and struck out five.

Buchanan challenged the Astros with first-pitch strikes and let them put the ball in play. The Astros left six men on base through the first seven innings.

"When you have a five-run lead, your job is to get back to the dugout as quick as possible," Buchanan said.

Buchanan picked up where he left off before he was sent to triple-A Lehigh Valley. He pitched seven innings of four-hit ball in a 9-1 win over Milwaukee on July 10.

In three minor-league starts, he went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and spent time working on his breaking pitches. When he began elevating his fastball Wednesday, Buchanan adjusted by using his curve more frequently.

"I wanted to work on throwing the curveball a little more, and throwing it for strikes, not just bouncing one in the dirt to throw something else," Buchanan said.

Sandberg hoped the Phillies' 2-1 win in a 15-inning, five-hour marathon Tuesday would invigorate an offense that had scored two runs in 36 innings. The Phillies scored eight in their first four innings Wednesday, and the old guard was largely responsible.

Ryan Howard showed another sign of exiting his malaise, going 2 for 4 with a two-run double in the first. Chase Utley snapped a 1-for-21 skid with a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 8-2. He went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs.

Even Buchanan joined the party. His first-inning single was also his first career RBI, and gave the Phillies a 5-1 lead. Another lesson was not lost on him.

"For now," Buchanan said, "I think I'm just going to stay at first base."




Length of the Phillies' 15-inning win over Houston on Tuesday.


Phillies games this year that have gone 13 innings or longer, the most in a season since 1980.


Extra-inning games the Phillies have played this season, which ranks fourth in the majors.


Their record in extra-inning games.


Innings the Phillies played this season through Tuesday, the most in the majors.