2003 - Timeline
from This Date in Astros History
Jan 25 - Slugger Daryle Ward is traded to Los Angeles for minor league pitcher Ruddy Lugo, younger brother of infielder Julio Lugo. Ward teases fans with his home run potential but management loses patience after a five-year run where he swats 49 homers and bats .269 in 418 games.
Mar 14 - Houston signs lefthander Bruce Chen to a minor league contract but he stays with the parent club. This is his sixth National League team in the past four seasons but the ride doesn't last long. He is cut after 11 appearances with a 0-0 record and a 6.00 ERA.
Mar 16 - As America prepares for a second war with Iraq, opinions are strong on both sides. After the lead singer of the country music group "The Dixie Chicks" causes an uproar by saying on stage that she's embarrassed that President George W. Bush is from Texas, Lance Berkman, another native Texan, says he's embarrassed for her and suggests she move to Oklahoma.
Mar 27 - Houston veterans are stunned to learn that pitcher Shane Reynolds, who had been with the team since 1992, has been released. Coming off back surgery and having a shaky spring, the Astros pull the plug on an incentive-laden deal that could have been worth as much as $5 million dollars to Reynolds. Penciled in as the third starter, Reynolds comments that he thought he was just sharpening up for the season and didn't need to compete for a job. He soon finds a new home pitching for Atlanta, posting an 11-9 record.
Mar 28 - Halliburton Plaza opens next to Minute Maid Park, showcasing the team's history and featuring action statues adorned with the uniform numbers of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio turning a double play.
Apr 01 - Former N.L. MVP Jeff Kent homers in his first at bat as a Houston Astro, leading a 10-4 mauling of the Rockies. Jeff Bagwell tops that with two home runs while Geoff Blum goes deep and drives in three. Roy Oswalt survives a shaky start for the victory. .
Apr 02 - Craig Biggio singles home the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth, completing a five-run rally that stuns Colorado, 8-7. Four straight singles and a double by Orlando Merced set the stage for Biggio's heroics. Billy Wagner is the surprise winner.
Apr 04 - Brad Ausmus slugs a grand slam homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the 12th to carry the Astros over St. Louis, 6-5. Ausmus also guns down three runners, including Fernando Vina at third base for the game's final out. Brad Lidge gets his first major league save.
Apr 10 - Craig Biggio sets a league record with his 31st leadoff homer, sparking the Astros to a 4-2 triumph over Cincinnati. He eclipses the mark of Bobby Bonds. Jeriome Robertson picks up his first major league win, allowing just two hits and fanning eight over seven innings.
May 01 - An emotional day in Houston ends with an 8-7 loss to the Braves. The Astros had earlier released starting shortstop Julio Lugo after his arrest on domestic violence charges the night before. Shane Reynolds, in his first Houston appearance since his sudden spring release, gives up five runs in five innings for Atlanta but Houston wastes a six-RBI performance by Lance Berkman when Mark DeRosa slams a two-run shot off Billy Wagner in the ninth. Expected to challenge for the division crown, the freefalling Astros drop their 14th game in their last 18.
May 23 - After 51 major league appearances, righthander Scott Linebrink gets his first big league win - and is released the next day. A six-run first inning allows Linebrink to post a 7-5 victory over the Cubs, capped by a three-run homer from Jose Vizcaino. Injuries and illnesses force the Astros into the roster move that sends Linebrink back to the farm.
Jun 07 - Richard Hidalgo comes off the disabled list to smack the game-winning homer as Houston edges Tampa Bay, 5-4, for their sixth straight win. It was Hidalgo's third hit of the night after being hospitalized with a fever from tonsilitis. Lance Berkman's three-run blast, a ballpark-record 464-foot shot, stakes the Astros to the early lead. Billy Wagner saves his 199th game as an Astro, tying Dave Smith for the franchise record.
Jun 11 - Houston fans moan when starter Roy Oswalt leaves the game in the second inning with a pulled groin, but they rejoice when the bullpen comes through in a record-setting way. Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner combine to no-hit the New York Yankees, 8-0. It's the first time in big league history that a no-no is shared by six pitchers. They walk three Bronx Bombers, striking out 13, while accomplishing the first no-hitter against the Yankees since 1958 and the first opposition no-hitter at Yankee Stadium since 1952. Lidge gets credit for the win. Dotel ties a record with a four-strikeout inning. Lance Berkman's mammoth two-run blast off Jeff Weaver highlights the offense.
Jun 21 - Rodrigo Rosario wins his big league debut as Houston holds on for a 9-5 victory, their second straight win against the cross-state rival Texas Rangers. Craig Biggio starts the game with his 32nd career leadoff homer. Richard Hidalgo and Jeff Bagwell also go deep. Houston moves past Chicago into first place in the Central Division, one win ahead of the Cubs and the Cardinals.
Jun 27 - Infielder Dave Matranga homers in his first big league at bat as part of a four-homer assault, but it isn't enough as the Texas Rangers stop the Astros, 10-7, at Minute Maid Park. Lance Berkman, Morgan Ensberg and Jeff Bagwell also go yard but the bullpen isn't up to the task of replacing rookie starter Rodrigo Rosario after he leaves with a shoulder strain in the second inning.
Jul 10 - Houston explodes for nine runs in the first inning (a franchise record) and coasts to an 11-2 blast over Cincinnati, completing a four-game sweep. Geoff Blum gets two hits and two RBIs in the opening frame. Craig Biggio becomes the 40th player in major league history to reach 500 doubles in his career . Richard Hidalgo drives in four as the Astros extend their lead in the weak Central Division to two games, even though they are just five games above the .500 mark.
Jul 19 - Lance Berkman, Richard Hidalgo and Morgan Ensberg spank back-to-back-to-back home runs off Jimmy Haynes in Cincinnati then hold on for a 9-8 triumph. Berkman has two homers and five RBIs. Ron Villone watches a 9-1 lead evaporate in the final two innings before Octavio Dotel fans the final two batters for the save.
Jul 20 - Jeff Bagwell smashes two home runs, including the 400th of his career, as the Astros sweep the Reds, 6-3 . . Bagwell also provides a sacrifice fly to give him four RBIs. He becomes the 35th player in Major League history to reach the 400-HR mark, while extending his own franchise record.
Aug 19 - Jeff Kent smashes a home run and drives in six to pace a 12-8 slugfest over the Chicago Cubs in Houston. His shot off Matt Clement snaps a 5-5 tie. Lance Berkman also delivers three hits. The victory keeps Houston a game in front of St. Louis for the division lead while the Cubs lurk just 1-1/2 games behind.
Aug 26 - Jeff Kent homers and drives in five to pace an 18-4 explosion over the Dodgers. Brad Ausmus plates four. Jeff Bagwell also goes deep. Ron Villone wins his sixth of the year.
Sep 01 - Jeff Kent belts a grand slam and drives in six as Houston bombs Los Angeles, 10-1. Brad Ausmus adds a home run. Wade Miller ups his record to 12-11. The Astros tie St. Louis for the Central Division lead while Chicago lurks just 1-1/2 games behind.
Sep 16 - Richard Hidalgo blasts three homers and drives in five to lead a 14-4 slugfest over the Rockies at Coors Field . Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg and Jeff Kent join him in the home run derby. Jeriome Robertson wins his 15th, a Houston rookie record, to keep the Astros 1-1/2 games ahead of Chicago in the N.L. Central race.
Sep 24 - Jose Vizcaino slaps a pinch-hit two-run single in the seventh to nip the Giants, 2-1. Billy Wagner sets a club record with his 44th save. The win moves the Astros within a half-game of division-leading Chicago but they split a four-game series with Milwaukee and miss the playoffs after leading the N.L. Central for most of the season.
Nov 03 - In an anticipated salary move, Houston trades closer Billy Wagner to the Philadelphia Phillies for righthanded pitchers Brandon Duckworth, Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio. Wagner had opened the door to be traded after criticizing the ownership for not making the moves he thought would bring a pennant to Houston.
Dec 03 - The Houston Sports Association reaches an agreement with the manufacturers of the retractable roof above Minute Maid Park to clean fungus that had been spreading on the roof since the stadium opened in 2000. The cleaning is set to take place before the city hosts the Super Bowl and the All-Star Game in 2004.
Dec 11 - Lefthander Andy Pettitte signs a three-year deal with Houston for $31.5 million. It's both a surprise that the Astros would spend again on a top-dollar free agent and that Houston would snatch him away from the Yankees where he had won 149 games over nine seasons and pitched in six World Series. At the time, Pettitte had more postseason victories to his name than the franchise he was joining.