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ATL@HOU: Martinez launches a solo homer in the first

HOUSTON -- As the mistakes and the missed opportunities piled up, so did the frustrations for the Astros.

Had a couple of plays perhaps been made defensively in the crucial fourth inning or if they would have found a way to come up with a clutch hit late in the game, the Astros wouldn't have came off the field Wednesday wanting to punch a wall.

The Astros made four errors, squandered some scoring chances in the final three innings for the second straight game and couldn't overcome a rough start by ace Wandy Rodriguez as they lost to the Braves, 6-3, in the series finale at Minute Maid Park.

"We're putting ourselves in position to score runs and the guys are playing with their hearts," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "The fans see that, we see that sometimes. The heart gets in the way sometimes, and I think that might have to do with some of those errors they've made. As we move forward, I can see that getting a lot better."

Despite committing four errors for the second time this season -- both of which came in games started by Rodriguez -- the Astros had the tying run in the plate in the ninth when Braves closer Craig Kimbrel struck out Carlos Lee looking on a 3-2 breaking pitch down the heart of the plate.

"The guy's throwing 97 [mph] and all of a sudden he drops a 3-2 breaking ball on me for a strike and just froze me," Lee said. "He made a good pitch."

That was just one of a handful of missed opportunities for the Astros, who were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base. Houston was only retired in order once in nine innings, coming in the second when Braves starter Randall Delgado struck out the side swinging.

"Everybody has a terrific approach at the plate, those young kids over there," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the Astros. "The last thing you want to see at the end of the game is Carlos Lee at the plate being the tying run. He had some pretty decent numbers against Kimbrel. I'm glad we got out of there without things getting too crazy in the ninth."

Rodriguez (0-1), making his first start since Opening Day, struggled through five innings and gave up six hits and four runs (three earned). Rodriguez's frustrations were the result of a two-run bases-loaded double by David Ross in the fourth that broke a 1-1 tie.

"I felt a little bit frustrated," he said. "I made one mistake tonight to Ross, the catcher, and 0-2, I didn't want to throw anything close to home plate and I missed it. I threw a changeup. I saw him miss two changeups in a row, and in that situation I wanted to throw down in the zone. I left the ball down the middle. That was a big mistake for me."

The top three hitters in the Astros order went a combined 6-for-13 with two runs scored. J.D. Martinez went 2-for-4 and homered in the first, extending his hitting streak to six games to start the season. He's the only Astros player to have a hit in every game this year.

Still, the at-bat that stuck out in the mind of Martinez came in the seventh when he flied out to right field with the bases loaded and one out. Lee followed with a bases-loaded walk to score a run and get the Astros within a run, 4-3, but pinch-hitter Matt Downs hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

"I'm real frustrated with myself," Martinez said. "That's my job [to drive in runs] and that's what I take pride in. I'd change it all to come up clutch in that, and I just didn't do it today. I think I just put too much pressure on myself when I get in those situations, trying to hit it too hard and try to drive it instead of just hitting. It's early and I'm hoping to change it."

Two of the four errors committed by the Astros came in the fourth, when the Braves batted around and scored three times to take a 4-1 lead. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who grounded out to strand the bases loaded in the fourth, and Rodriguez both had fielding errors that help the inning along.

"We are concerned about those errors," Mills said.

Despite losing the final two games of the series against the Braves to fall to 3-3, Lee remains optimistic. The Astros are hitting .275 as a team through six games, and had 12 hits in a 6-4 loss on Tuesday and 10 hits in Wednesday's loss to Atlanta.

"Everybody, the whole lineup, is hitting the ball pretty good, especially hitting the ball to right field and using the whole field," Lee said. "It's great. I hope they keep the same approach. If we continue to do this, we're going to have a lot of chances to do good." Comments