Astros struggle to drive in runners

Astros struggle to drive in runners

CHICAGO -- Baseball is such a team game, it's tough for one person to take responsibility for a loss, but Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg couldn't help himself on Saturday night.

The Astros continued their season-long futility of leaving runners in scoring position, going 0-for-9 in that situation during a 5-3 loss to the White Sox in Game 1 of the World Series at U.S. Cellular Field. But Ensberg was particularly hard on himself.

Ensberg stranded Lance Berkman on second with two out in the third; Willy Taveras on third with one out in the sixth, and Taveras again on third with none out in an eighth when he, Mike Lamb and Jeff Bagwell struck out in succession.

"It's the eighth inning that's going to haunt me in this game," said Ensberg, who whiffed against reliever Neal Cotts just after the left-hander replaced starter and winning pitcher Jose Contreras. "I don't think Lamb or Baggy should share the same amount of weight that I do because I was the one who was up with that man on third and nobody out, and you absolutely can't strike out in that situation.

"It's kind of an unwritten rule. I felt like I let the team down. In fact, I know I let the team down."

It's been a nascent problem for the Astros, particularly since the start of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals. Since then, they've been 4-for-42 with runners in scoring position. But still, they won the first NL pennant in the 44-year history of the franchise and are only trailing the best-of-seven World Series, 1-0, with aces Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt slated to start the next two games.

Lamb certainly must take part of the responsibility for Saturday night's loss in which White Sox third baseman Joe Crede blunted at least two potential rallies with diving stops of sharply hit ground balls.

"You've got to give Crede credit," said Astros manager Phil Garner. "But what really hurt was we struck out five of the last six outs. We didn't put the ball in play and we had a guy on third base. And that's what hurt us. We didn't put the ball in play when we need to."

The left-handed swinging Lamb slugged a game-tying second-inning homer off Contreras with nobody on base. But neither he nor Ensberg could take advantage of the fact that Taveras led off both the sixth and eighth with doubles.

After Ensberg smacked a shot that Crede snared for the second out in sixth, Lamb bounced out to second, ending the threat. After Ensberg struck out in the eighth with runners on first and third, Lamb struck out, too.

Ensberg hasn't hit a homer since Sept. 20 and Lamb said driving home runners in scoring position has been a Houston epidemic all year.

"We stunk all season and we stunk [Saturday night]," said Lamb, who has hit three homers this postseason in limited duty. "We stunk in the NLCS and here we are. If we lived off our stats, we wouldn't have won the Wild Card, we wouldn't be in the playoffs. We've had some bad stats and we found a way to win. Same thing with the rest of this series. We've got to find a way to win."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.