Astros Bring The Phillies Back To Earth Rich Hunter Got Shelled. The Sparse Crowd Booed. Jim Fregosi Got Ejected. Welcome Home, Phils.

Posted: May 07, 1996

The Phillies, fresh off their most successful 10-game road trip in more than a decade, returned to Veterans Stadium last night and were greeted by:

A. Wintry weather.

B. A sparse, booing crowd.

C. Another home loss.

D. All of the above.

If you answered ``D,'' you were paying attention.

The Phillies dropped an 11-5 decision to the Houston Astros before a crowd of fewer than 10,000, though 15,906 tickets had been sold.

It took the fans less than two innings to start booing.

The crowd, which managed a few ``Let's go, Flyers'' chants, responded with their biggest cheers for manager Jim Fregosi - after he was ejected for getting into an animated, nose-to-nose argument with home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford at the end of the fifth inning.

No, it was not a pleasant night in Phillies Land.

Rookie Rich Hunter was shelled. Rightfielder Mark Whiten struck out looking three times and was ejected for tossing his helmet after his third strikeout, which triggered Fregosi's confrontation with Crawford.

And the Phils, now 16-14 after their third straight loss, were not competitive for one of the few times this season.

Winner Doug Drabek, owner of an 0-2 record and a 5.47 ERA before the game, allowed just three hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out nine in seven innings. Leftfielder James Mouton, who had been hitting .196, homered, doubled, and knocked in four runs for Houston.

Hunter, 21, struggled for the third straight game. In four-plus innings, the righthander walked five batters, four of whom came around to score. He allowed seven runs, served a monstrous two-run homer to Jeff Bagwell off the upper-deck facing in left and threw two wild pitches.

``The only pitch he could get over was his fastball,'' said Fregosi, mindful that Hunter is a breaking-ball specialist. ``He didn't show the same demeanor out there that he had been showing. We'll talk about it.''

Said Hunter: ``This is the first time I've ever really struggled with my control. It's just something I have to go through, I guess.''

Houston, which started an 11-game road trip and moved into a first-place tie with Chicago in the Central Division, scored four runs in both the second and fifth innings. The Astros used two walks, a single, Drabek's check-swing RBI single, a run-scoring wild pitch, and Craig Biggio's two-out, two-run single to take a 4-0 lead in the second.

Two-run homers by Bagwell and Mouton (off Toby Borland) put Houston ahead, 8-1, in the fifth.

At the time, about 10,000 fans were in the stands. Two innings later, with temperatures in the 40s, there were fewer than a thousand.

The Phillies were coming back from a 7-3 road trip that was a success because of their pitching and because of an unlikely slugging trio: Benito Santiago, Pete Incaviglia and Kevin ``Babe'' Stocker.

But they're still having problems at Veterans Stadium, where it has rained, or threatened to rain, in their last four home games.

The rain, which stopped about an hour before last night's game, and low temperatures held down the crowd.

The diehards who attended watched Hunter's ERA climb from 4.81 to 6.35 and the Phillies' home record fall to 4-7. They are 12-7 on the road.

``If you're going to lose, I'd rather lose like this than a 2-1 game,'' Fregosi said. ``I'd rather get your butts kicked. A close loss lingers.''

AMARO RETURNS. The Phillies placed outfielder Lee Tinsley on the 15-day disabled list and signed free-agent outfielder Ruben Amaro Jr., who played with Philadelphia for parts of the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Amaro, 31, a Penn Charter graduate, began the season with Toronto's triple-A Syracuse team but was released on Sunday.

Amaro, who has a .227 career average, hit .200 in 60 at-bats with Cleveland last season.

Tinsley strained a muscle in his right side while taking batting practice before Sunday's game in Atlanta.

MIMBS IN. Michael Mimbs will ``most likely'' start against Atlanta on Saturday night, Fregosi announced. Mimbs will replace Mike Williams, who apparently is headed for long-relief duty after struggling in his six starts.

Williams, 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA, said he didn't want to go back to the bullpen, ``but the way I'm throwing, I'm not helping the team by going out there every five days. Hopefully, I'll get things turned around in the bullpen. No one said life is a road of roses.''

Opponents are hitting .341 and have slammed seven homers against Williams, who raised his stock by compiling a 2.55 ERA in his eight starts last season.

NOTES. Mike Grace (5-0, 2.53 ERA), who has thrown 16 2/5 straight scoreless innings, will face Houston lefthander Mike Hampton (3-2, 2.09) tonight. The last Phillies rookie to start a season 6-0 was Bob Walk in 1980. . . . The Phils' 7-3 record on their just-concluded road trip was their best 10-game trip since they went 8-2 on a West Coast swing in 1985.

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