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COL@HOU: Harrell shuts out Rockies over seven frames

HOUSTON -- Lucas Harrell was barely a year old when Jamie Moyer made his Major League debut in 1986, making Saturday night's pitching matchup at Minute Maid Park about as unlikely as it gets.

The pitcher who stole the show proved to be rather unlikely as well.

Harrell, making only his sixth Major League start, bested the 49-year-old Moyer by tossing seven scoreless innings in the longest outing of his career to lead the Astros to a 7-3 win over the Rockies.

"He deserved this start in the first series of the season because of the way he pitched in Spring Training," manager Brad Mills said. "He earned this spot, and he showed why."

After being ruled out of the running for a spot in the rotation near the end of camp, Harrell pitched his way back into the mix by making a pair of strong spring starts, giving a glimpse of the kind of performance he turned in against the Rockies.

The 26-year-old attacked the strike zone with a biting sinker and effective changeup and pitched to contact, holding the Rockies to three hits and no walks while striking out four. He recorded 13 outs through groundouts.

"I'm not a guy that's going to strike out a lot of guys, and if I walk guys, I'll get in a lot of trouble," Harrell said. "I felt like ... getting a lot of early contact and getting ground balls was the key."

Harrell, making his first start since allowing seven hits and five runs in three innings in a 19-3 loss to the Rockies last September at Minute Maid Park, praised veteran catcher Chris Snyder for making his night easier, but Snyder wasn't about to take any credit.

"Hey, he threw the ball," Snyder said. "He went along with my suggestions, and it worked out tonight. That was big for him to get that first one out of the way, and that's what he's been doing all spring. I told him going into it, there's a reason why you're here now, from what you did this spring. Just carry it over and don't try to change anything, and he went along with it."

Moyer, bidding to become the oldest pitcher to win a Major League game, went five innings with his mix of 79-mph fastballs, 67-mph curveballs and 72-mph changeups. He allowed five hits and four runs (three earned) in his 629th Major League start.

"You never like to lose," Moyer said. "The run support will take care of itself. As a pitcher, you've got to pitch. You've got to go out and do your job. I put us behind the eight-ball the first hitter of the game."

That first hitter was center fielder Jordan Schafer, who led off the game with a homer to right, only a couple of pitches after breaking a blood vessel in a finger on his left hand while trying to bunt. The Astros also got a two-run homer in the fourth from J.D. Martinez, who had three RBIs, to take a three-run lead.

"That was the plan, to try to get him up," Martinez said of Moyer. "He lives on that down, away corner. You have to be quick enough to react if it's in, but if you look for the ball away, he's going to eat you up with that changeup. That was the game plan -- reacting to anything in."

A day after committing four errors in their season-opening loss to the Rockies, the Astros were sharp with the glove, with rookie shortstop Marwin Gonzalez showing why the Astros took him in the Rule 5 Draft by making a pair of nice defensive plays.

It was a good thing, too, considering the number of ground balls Harrell was inducing.

"The good thing after last night was having a guy like Lucas, who's going to make them put the ball in play and put the ball on the ground," Snyder said. "Once we got through that first inning, we kept going and going, and everybody was involved. It was great to come off of last night with all those errors and get everybody back out there and get the confidence up."

Harrell also recorded his first Major League hit with a bunt single in the fifth, which came immediately after Gonzalez recorded his first Major League hit with a double to left. Schafer scored Gonzalez with a sacrifice bunt, and the Astros scored a single run in their final four at-bats.

"They call it building a picket fence when you keep scoring inning after inning after inning," Mills said. "And it was sure nice."

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