HOUSTON -- Playing the struggling Houston Astros, even on the road, would appear to be a gift for the Philadelphia Phillies as they make a late-season push to stay in contention for a Wild-Card spot in the National League playoffs.
But instead of Houston losing for the 100th time this season, the Astros dealt a blow to the Phillies' playoff chances, beating the Phillies, 5-0, on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have won two of the first three games of the four-game series that concludes on Sunday with Roy Halladay pitching for Philadelphia.
"We have trouble winning here," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel."They [Astros] swing the bats and they out-hit [10-7] us today. They're still trying. They were trying against us."
Houston is also trying to derail the season for the Phillies, who came into the game three games behind for the second Wild-Card spot.
"That's really what we have fun with now," said Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez. "We know we have no chance for the playoffs, and now we just want to have a good time and play spoiler and have fun while we do it."
It wasn't a fun night for the Phillies, who were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and were shut out for the sixth time this season and first time since Aug. 2 at Washington.
Astros starter Dallas Keuchel couldn't find the strike zone on Saturday. But the Phillies couldn't find home plate -- when Keuchel was on the mound and after the left-hander left the game. In 95 pitches, Keuchel threw 48 strikes and 47 balls.
"He made some pitches," said Phillies catcher Erik Kratz, who was 1-for-2 against Keuchel in a 1-for-4 night. "He mixed and matched his pitches when he had to."
"He had a lot of slow stuff," said Manuel. "We didn't hit him. He got us out when he had to."
Saturday's loss dropped the Phillies to .500 at 73-73. More importantly, the team can't afford too many more losses with only 16 games remaining.
"It's tough to lose to a team like that," said starter Kyle Kendrick, who lasted only five innings. "I can't say I did my job."
Despite the disappointing loss and somber mood in the clubhouse following only Philadelphia's second loss in its last nine games, Manuel isn't throwing in the towel on the season.
"It won't be easy," said Manuel. "I know it is one game. You can't get down."
The win was Keuchel's first since June 23. The Phillies, who left the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings, stranded 12 on base. The Phillies managed only seven hits with third baseman Kevin Frandsen getting two hits.
Jimmy Rollins stole second and third base in Philadelphia's three stolen base-first inning. He has 29 steals for the season and a Major-League leading 12 steals of third base.
Kendrick labored the first two innings, allowing a two-run home run to Justin Maxwell in the first, and allowing a run in the second. In his first two innings Kendrick allowed five hits, including three straight singles to start the second.
For the game Kendrick allowed four runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Keuchel wasn't flashy, but he was effective. He went 5 1/3 scoreless innings giving up five hits with four walks and no strikeouts.
The Phillies couldn't capitalize on Keuchel's inability to find the strike zone, stranding the bases loaded without scoring in the first and fourth innings.
"Left-handers in this league can survive if they can use their off-speed and the sinkerball down," said Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco. "He's going to have some success. They had a few chances, and we made pitches. The ball went our way today."
Keuchel walked Rollins to load the bases with two outs in the fourth. Frandsen, who singled in the third, grounded out to Keuchel to end the fourth-inning threat.
In the first inning, the Phillies had three stolen bases as the leadoff hitter, Rollins, stole second and third. Chase Utley and John Mayberry drew walks from Keuchel, who threw balls on 13 of his first 19 pitches. But former Astro Ty Wigginton flied to center for the third out.
The Phillies, who routed the Astros on Friday 12-6, are trying for a 10th straight winning season, which would be a franchise best. Twice the Phillies have had nine straight winning seasons (1975-83, 2003-2011).
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.