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ARI@HOU: Happ hammers a solo homer in the fifth

HOUSTON -- Astros slugger Carlos Lee peeled off his uniform and packed it away before another road trip, all the while having a hard time coming to grips with how his club let a pair of precious wins slip away at home against the D-backs.

Blowing a six-run lead Friday was certainly tough to digest, but watching the bullpen squander an eighth-inning lead in Sunday's series finale, albeit a tenuous, one-run lead, wasn't any easier to take from his perch in left field.

The D-backs scored three runs in the eighth inning off of reliever Jeff Fulchino, including a go-ahead, two-run double by Xavier Nady, to beat the Astros, 4-2, and polish off a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.

"Everything goes wrong for us," Lee said. "A bad bounce, a blooper, a broken bat. It seems like we cannot make a mistake at all. We have to play so clean, because every time we make a mistake, we pay for it. We don't get any breaks. It's hard."

Fulchino was called upon in the eighth to protect a 2-1 lead and gave it up on Nady's two-out double, which came after the Astros chose to intentionally walk Chris Young after falling behind, 3-0, in the count. It's the Major League-leading 13th blown save for the Astros.

"Those are tough losses," Lee said. "We played pretty good and should have won those games. That's the game. It doesn't always go the way you want it. It's a tough series, and has been like that all year. Every game, we have to battle pretty much 200 percent to win a game. I don't think we've won a game easy yet. It's always hard, and getting tougher and tougher. Hopefully it will change."

Trailing, 4-2, in the eighth, the Astros had runners at second and third when Brett Wallace struck out to end the inning. They went quietly in the ninth against Arizona closer J.J. Putz, who extended his franchise record by converting his 16th consecutive save opportunity.

The Astros squandered a strong effort from starting pitcher J.A. Happ, who allowed just two hits and one run in six innings. He also hit his first career homer in the fifth inning to put Houston ahead, 2-0. Happ has lowered his ERA in seven consecutive starts.

"At some point, we've got to find a way to win those games," Happ said. "That's the way it goes. A tough one today, a tough series, but we've got to keep fighting and see what happens."

Happ retired Willie Bloomquist to start the game and suddenly watched his control disappear. He threw 12 balls in a 13-pitch span to walk the next three hitters, loading the bases with one out. Happ came back to strike out Nady and Juan Miranda to escape the jam.

That began a streak during which Happ retired 12 batters in a row, including six by strikeout. He didn't allow a hit until a two-out single by Bloomquist in the fifth on his 92nd pitch of the game.

"We were just missing his fastball," Arizona second baseman Ryan Roberts said. "We fouled off a lot of fastballs. After that, he was throwing changeups and curveballs. Once he got ahead, then he was curveball/changeup, and got you to ground out on it."

Happ credited pitching coach Brad Arnsberg with helping him correct his stride to the plate during a visit to the mound in the first inning.

"He noticed something in the 'pen and thought my stride was pretty solid, and that I might have been shortening up and opening up a little bit," Happ said. "Once I focused on getting downhill, it was better."

Meanwhile, the Astros didn't manage their first hit until Jeff Keppinger's leadoff double in the fourth. Hunter Pence pushed him to third with a single -- extending his hitting streak to 10 games -- and Keppinger strolled home on a balk by D-backs starter Josh Collmenter.

Happ, who flied out to deep right field in the third inning, smacked his first career homer in the fifth to put the Astros ahead, 2-0. The hit was the seventh of the season for Happ, who came into the year with only four career hits.

"If it didn't go out I'm in trouble, because that's about all I had," Happ said. "I thought it might give us a little bit of life."

No such luck.

Justin Upton ignited the D-backs in the sixth with a leadoff triple that zoomed past a running Michael Bourn in center and rolled up Tal's Hill. Young scored Upton with a sacrifice fly to center, cutting Houston's lead to 2-1.

"Happ did a great job settling down after those three walks in the first inning," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Arnie went out there and got him situated in the first inning, and he came back strong and got out of that, and that was big. Of course, he hit the home run to give us that second run. But you can't say enough about how he threw the ball." Comments