07/13/05 2:10 AM ET
Astros All-Stars all see time for NL
Oswalt, Lidge, Clemens toss inning; Ensberg plays first
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Both's enthusiasm was as strong after the game as it was during the pregame introductions.
"You want to win the game, and you're playing to win this game for sure," Lidge said. "I was happy with how I threw. It was a memory I'll never forget." "I think the smile was something I couldn't fight back," Ensberg said of his ear-to-ear grin during the pregame ceremony. "I was just so happy to be here."
He had no regrets about his performance, even though he popped out in the eighth and ended the game with a strikeout.
Lidge, on the other hand, used 11 pitches to strike out the side in the seventh. Later, the closer compared his nervousness to how he felt during the playoffs, which makes sense, considering he was as good on Tuesday as he was during his strikeout tear during the NLCS last October.
"Sometimes, when you have that much adrenaline, it can help you out there and get your focus a little better," the closer said.
Ensberg said he felt cool and collected during both of his at-bats, and even though he was facing one of the best closers in baseball history in the ninth, he didn't change his aggressive approach while facing Mariano Rivera.
Ensberg seemed unfazed that he swung at and missed three consecutive pitches.
"I was hacking, no matter who was up there," he said. "You saw my typcial, aggressive style. I was not going to get cheated. I just didn't get a hit. It happens."
The Astros were well-represented at this year's All-Star Game. In addition to Lidge and Ensberg, Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens also appeared in Tuesday's contest.
Oswalt pitched the third inning and allowed two runs on two hits. Johnny Damon singled to short and eventually scored on David Ortiz's base hit to right, and Miguel Tejada drove in a run with a groundout to short.
It was the earliest a Final Vote winner has ever appeared in an All-Star Game.
Clemens appeared in the fifth and faced the minimum three batters during his scoreless inning of work.
The game, meaningless in the standings regardless of the impact it has on the World Series, is somewhat of a sideshow compared to the hooplah that ensues in the days leading up.
As late as batting practice Tuesday, Ensberg was still pinching himself that he was in Detroit, taking in the festivities.
"I still don't feel comfortable too much in here," he said, looking around the clubhouse. "I don't know what I'm doing here. You look around there's no question you see the top guys in the game. I just don't see myself as one of the top guys in the game."
Maybe not, but he was the home run leader among all Major League third baseman at the break, which more than justified his late addition to the All-Star team. Ensberg's modesty never wavered through the numerous interviews he's granted since he arrived Monday morning.
Clemens, however, didn't hold back.
"Mo's our MVP right now and one of the main reasons why we have hope again in Houston," he said.
Lidge called the whole All-Star experience "surreal," especially when the pitchers gathered for a pregame meeting to go over the opposing team's hitters.
"You're going over the greatest hitters in the other league," Lidge marveled.
Lidge said one thing he will remember from this week is sitting on the field during Monday's home run derby with his fellow National Leaguers, a group that included Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, Dontrelle Willis, Jake Peavy, Jason Isringhausen and Chris Carpenter.
"Sitting on the field when the home run derby started and looking around and seeing the guys surrounding me that are my teammates for a couple days, it was amazing," he said.
Oswalt is one who, during the regular season, has very little desire to fraternize with opposing hitters. He's old school in that way, claiming he doesn't need to socialize with players who he will be facing in the not so distant future.
But during All-Star week, Oswalt has put those convictions aside.
"We'll go back to business when we go back to the game," Oswalt said.
The All-Star experience may be all about being on the big stage, but it was also important not to forget the little things. During pregame introductions, Lidge waved to his family, tipped his cap to the crowd ands tugged on his goatee. The latter was his way of saying hello to his fellow Houston relievers.
"I have a lot of love for my bullpen mates," Lidge said.
Asked if he had a special sign for his family, Lidge replied, "My family knows I love them. [The bullpen] needs constant attention. They're insecure."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.