HOUSTON -- The Astros spent much of the postgame on Tuesday giving all kinds of kudos to Royals starter Luke Hochevar, while kicking themselves over not being able to take advantage of the few chances they had against him later in the game.
Hochevar was as dominant as he's been all season -- holding the Astros scoreless for 7 2/3 innings while allowing five hits -- to earn his first win in more than a month and help the Royals post a 2-0 victory at Minute Maid Park.
"The breaking ball that Hochevar had was pretty good and we had trouble making adjustments to it, as you obviously saw," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "As he got a little more tired and started to find the plate a little bit more with it, we started getting our heads together then. At that time we just couldn't get any hits with runners in scoring position. That's the big thing."
Houston had all kinds of chances later in the game, putting runners at second and third base in the sixth and eighth innings and coming up empty. The Astros were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine on base.
"We didn't do timely hitting today," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "You've got to give credit to Hochevar. He was pretty good tonight. He had some good stuff, but we've got to come up with big hits and we didn't do that tonight."
It's the fifth time this year the Astros have been shut out and third time in games Wandy Rodriguez has been on the mound. Rodriguez (6-5) didn't pitch poorly, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings to lose for the first time since May 18.
"I felt great, but we missed a lot of opportunities to get some run support. That's what happens sometimes," Rodriguez said.
Billy Butler got the Royals on the board in the first inning with a blast over the fence in left-center for a solo homer with two out. The Royals went ahead 2-0 in the third, when Yuniesky Betancourt singled and scored on a two-out bouncer up the middle by Alcides Escobar.
"[Rodriguez] put it in the zone where he didn't want to throw it," Butler said of his homer.
The Astros didn't manage a hit against Hochevar (4-7) until Johnson slapped a one-out single to right in the fifth inning. Jason Castro followed with a single off the glove of Betancourt, but Rodriguez popped out to end the inning.
"The first time through the order [Hochevar] was throwing that fastball a lot, and the second time through the order he started throwing his breaking ball for strikes," Johnson said. "It was tough because after one at-bat he changed it up and threw some strikes with his other pitches. You have to give credit to him."
Houston squandered a great scoring chance in the sixth, when Jed Lowrie walked with one out and went to third on a double by Carlos Lee. But Hochevar came back and struck out both Justin Maxwell and Brian Bogusevic to escape the jam.
The Astros rallied again in the eighth, putting runners at second and third base with two out to chase Hochevar from the game. Royals reliever Aaron Crow struck out Maxwell to end the inning.
"Guys on second and third twice and I just didn't get it done tonight," Maxwell said. "That's why it's baseball. You have another game tomorrow. The key to success is how quickly you rebound, so you shake it off and get ready for tomorrow."
Mills thought Rodriguez had trouble finding a groove and settling into the kind of rhythm that he's usually in when he's on his game.
"We'd like him to get in that rhythm right away," the skipper said.
The Astros' young lineup also didn't make many adjustments on Hochevar. Johnson (2-for-4) and Lee (2-for-3) combined for four of the Astros' five hits, but Jordan Schafer and Jose Altuve combined to go 0-for-8 at the top of the order.
"Some of it has to come from youth and inexperience," Mills said. "That's not a blame. I'm not blaming these guys, but we do have to make adjustments quicker, and I thought Carlos did a good job tonight making some adjustments. That experience has helped him and we want to carry over that to the younger guys, and let them make adjustments as well."