Astros fall short against Rangers
Houston hits three homers, but allows three in loss
HOUSTON -- Michael Young entered Saturday's game with a perfect 7-for-7 mark against Hoston Astros starter Brandon Backe. An hour into this contest, Young was 9-for-10, had two more homers on his record and was well on his way to leading the Texas Rangers to a 6-5 win over the Astros before a sellout crowd of 41,868 at Minute Maid Park.
Young homered in his first two at-bats against Backe. He knocked a solo homer in the first frame and contributed a two-run shot as part of a four-run third inning.
Asked why Young seems to have his number, Backe shrugged.
"Maybe he just sees the ball well off of me," he said. "I wish I knew the answer to that. If I did, he wouldn't get so many hits off me."
Backe fell to 6-6 on the year, stretching his losing streak to three games. He has allowed 18 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings during that stretch for an 11.04 ERA.
"I don't want to believe I'm this bad," he said. "But I didn't feel like I was that bad today. I made some good pitches and got some outs. It was one of those things where you mess up one time, and bam."
The Rangers went bam, bam, bam, early. Besides Young's two shots, Rod Barajas homered in the second, his seventh of the year.
"They were pitches most Major Leaguers are going to take advantage of," Backe said. "Sometimes you get away with them. I didn't get away with anything today."
But Backe settled down after allowing a one-out double to Alfonso Soriano in the third. The right-hander retired eight consecutive batters to finish off his five-inning, 92-pitch outing.
"Backe got in a groove and made pitches and got better," manager Phil Garner said. "But early in the game, he didn't make his pitches and it hurt him.
"This is a good ballclub, a good-hitting ballclub, and they made us pay. That was the whole story. When Brandon started making better pitches, he got them out."
In between starts, Backe has been working on adjusting what he does with his lead [non-pitching] hand after he delivers the pitch. Instead of tucking the hand close to his side, as most pitchers do, Backe has been snapping it back in an awkward motion, which is affecting his balance and ultimately, his control.
Backe said he wasn't thinking too much about it during this start, but that he thinks he's headed in the right direction in terms of fixing the flaw.
"I tried," he said. "I went about it much the way I planned it. I had enough warmups where I did it right before the game. I can't tell you how my arm was going, but it felt good, whatever I was doing. I have to do it without thinking about it."
|Brandon Backe / P|
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Considering the Astros were down, 6-0, and being no-hit by Rangers right-hander Chris Young into the sixth, it's somewhat impressive that they were able to shave the deficit to one run.
Young retired all but two batters through five -- he hit Willy Taveras with a pitch in the fourth, and he walked Adam Everett in the fifth. He recorded two quick outs in the sixth, but Craig Biggio broke up the no-hit bid with a single up the middle. Biggio scored on Lance Berkman's home run to right-center, which was followed by a shot by Morgan Ensberg, his team-leading 18th of the season.
"We only had three hits off him," Garner said of Young. "I wouldn't call that hitting him a lot. We'll take those [home runs], because it helped us get back in the ballgame. But we've had a couple of comebacks like that, and we get close and can't get over the hump."
"He's not a guy who throws all that hard, but he's deceptive," Biggio said. "He gets a lot of bad swings on a lot of high fastballs. That's the art of pitching."
Biggio's two-run homer off John Wasdin in the eighth cut the Rangers' lead to one, but Francisco Cordero struck out Everett to end the inning after walking Ensberg and yielding a base hit to pinch-hitter Mike Lamb. Cordero retired the bottom of the order 1-2-3 in the ninth to log his 18th save.
The loss ended the Astros' four-game winning streak and an eight-game home winning streak.
"Our guys aren't infallible," Garner said. "No one has zero ERAs. This was an opportunity, and we didn't quite get over the hump. But we came close, and I'm glad about that. We still have momentum going, and I feel good about that."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.