Astros emerge empty-handed
Bases left loaded 3 innings in a row in loss to Brewers
By BRIAN MCTAGGART
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Even after watching his team fail to push a run across the previous two innings with the bases loaded Sunday afternoon, manager Phil Garner remained optimistic when the Astros loaded them again in the fifth inning.
"I felt like, 'All right, this is our chance,' " he said. "We'll ring true, and we'll get the hit, and something will happen. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way."
The Astros couldn't sustain the momentum from Saturday's 10-run outburst and reverted to the bad habits that plagued them during last week's seven-game losing streak, bowing 3-1 to the Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners, leaving the bases loaded without scoring in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
The Astros were 0-for-5 with three strikeouts with the bases loaded and managed their only run on Mike Lamb's pinch-hit homer in the eighth.
"I thought (Saturday) night we did pretty good," outfielder Carlos Lee said. "You can't expect the same all the time, but at least get some hits with people on base. We had opportunities. We had our shot. We didn't take advantage of it, and that's the game right there."
The Astros finished April with a 10-14 record and have lost eight of nine heading into today's day off. They were 9-13 in April 2005 on their way to the World Series and 16-8 last year, when they failed to make the playoffs.
"The off day comes at a good time," second baseman Craig Biggio said. "We'll regroup and refocus and come back on Tuesday (against Cincinnati) and start to do a little bit better. It's disappointing, but we have to move on."
Righthander Woody Williams, making only his second start at home, suffered the loss despite turning in the Astros' sixth consecutive quality start. He allowed five hits and three runs in six innings and is still searching for his first win.
"It's just a shame we keep losing," said Williams (0-4), whose ailing right elbow didn't give him any problems.
The top five hitters in the lineup — Biggio (0-for-4), Morgan Ensberg (0-for-3), Lance Berkman (0-for-2, three walks), Lee (1-for-5) and Luke Scott (0-for-5) — went a combined 1-for-19 with six walks.
Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game, but he struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth.
"It's certainly frustrating," Berkman said. "We're not driving the ball with runners in scoring position when we get a chance. ... If you want to look at a positive about this year as opposed to last year, we've been loading them up and haven't been able to get that big hit yet, (Saturday) notwithstanding. The good news is if you keep putting yourself in those positions, you're going to score runs. You just hope it happens sooner rather than later."
Williams retired the first four batters he faced before giving up an opposite-field homer to Geoff Jenkins into the Crawford Boxes. Tony Graffanino had an RBI single, and J.J. Hardy added an RBI double in the third to make it 3-0.
"I felt a lot better and made some good pitches," Williams said. "Jenkins hit a first-pitch fastball, and I left a ball up to Graffanino. And then a curveball kind of tumbled, and Hardy put a good swing on it. Other than that, I felt coming out of it I did a pretty good job."
The Astros had the bases loaded with two outs in the third for Lee, who struck out against Brewers starter Claudio Vargas (2-0). The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Williams struck out, and Biggio hit into a fielder's choice.
"Whenever you're not getting anybody in, it always looks like you're pressing," Biggio said. "As long as you keep getting guys out there, sooner or later you'll start driving them in."
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Pence struck out swinging before Adam Everett flied out to center field. The Astros also stranded two runners in the sixth.
"We only hit three balls good today, and with the exclusion of (Saturday) night, we haven't hit a lot of balls hard," Garner said. "We're not squaring the balls up. That tells me you're in a team-wide slump when that happens."