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07/03/07 12:50 AM ET

Late wildness hurts Phils in defeat

Victorino draws praise for fearless dive into stands

HOUSTON -- Shane Victorino realizes the recklessness of his actions, and has the ice-wrapped sore ribs and left quadriceps muscle as evidence.

But in the moment -- a bases-loaded, two-out situation of a one-run game -- what else could he do?

"I appreciated that effort," said reliever Brian Sanches, who would've benefited from the spectacular grab. "I ran back there to see if he was OK. An effort like that is what this team is about."

"I give him an A for effort," added Aaron Rowand, who nearly brought a Carlos Beltran home run back two days earlier at Citizens Bank Park.

Had Victorino coaxed that ball into his glove, perhaps the Phillies' ninth-inning rally would've counted for something, instead of two hollow runs in Monday night's 7-5 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Victorino's attempt came on pitch eight of an unfortunate 18-pitch, two-batter span that saw Sanches and Jose Mesa each issue a bases-loaded walk, providing back-breaking insurance runs and a disappointing start of Philadelphia's final first-half road trip through Houston and Denver.

Trailing, 4-3, in the seventh, Sanches relieved Jamie Moyer (7-6) and loaded the bases on two walks and a hit, a poor effort by his own admission. Eric Bruntlett worked a 3-2 count before fouling off three straight pitches. The third headed toward the cut in right field.

Victorino, running at full speed and knowing the score and situation, hurled his 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame headfirst into the stands, with little regard for his well-being.

"When I was going after it, I wasn't thinking [about hurting myself]," Victorino said. "I was trying to make the catch. After I looked at it, it was stupid play."

Fans cleared out of the vicinity, leaving only the plastic seats to break his fall.

"I hit my ribs on the seat," Victorino said, adjusting the ice. "It's fine. Nothing a little ice can't heal. I left my feet because I thought I could make the play. The fact that I just didn't catch it is more frustrating than anything. If I catch that ball, it's a 4-3 ballgame. I didn't reach out far enough. If I was six feet, I might have caught it."

He stayed in the stands for several minutes, as teammates and athletic trainer Mark Andersen rushed to his aid. He climbed out and within seconds, he was joking with teammates. He stayed in the game, and Sanches walked Bruntlett on the next pitch to force in a run. Mesa relieved and battled for nine pitches with Mark Loretta before losing him to force in another run.

The leakage allowed by the bullpen proved costly when the Phillies loaded the bases in the ninth inning and scored two runs.

"It was a pretty good battle there, but I of course walked him," Sanches said. "That's unacceptable. It's like being a quarterback after you throw a pick. You have to move on."

If the Phillies had done more damage to Woody Williams -- he of the pregame 5.58 ERA and a 3-10 record -- Sanches and Mesa's walks might have had less sting. The 40-year-old Astros righty turned in a solid effort, recording 11 ground-ball outs.

Philadelphia took a one-run lead twice, but Houston answered each time. The hosts took the lead for good on a two-run homer off Moyer by National League Rookie of the Year candidate Hunter Pence. Victorino homered in the sixth to pull the Phillies within a run at 4-3.

"That was a mistake," Moyer said of the pitch to Pence. "Too much of the plate."

While unhappy with having challenged Pence, there was a reason. Manager Charlie Manuel and Moyer felt home-plate umpire Brian Knight maintained a tight strike zone, forcing Moyer to hit the plate, rather than starting just off it, and going from there.

"He made some close pitches, but anytime he gets the ball on the plate and up, that's when they have success on him," Manuel said.

If only Victorino made that catch.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.