Astros go quietly in Lone Star finale
Houston pitchers give up 14 runs, six roundtrippers in loss
HOUSTON -- Last week, the Astros were pleased by the balance they had shown in recent games, receiving similar quality contributions from all three facets of the game -- offense, pitching and defense.
On Sunday, the contributions were again similar, but this time in the opposite direction. The Astros were awful across the board, losing the Houston leg of the Lone Star Series to Texas in a 14-1 rout in front of 39,938 fans at Minute Maid Park.
"Today was an ugly day all around," Craig Biggio said. "You have to forget about this one and move on. We couldn't get much of anything going."
The Rangers put together an astounding 18 hits to score those 14 runs, although seven came in the eighth and ninth innings when the game was essentially out of reach. It was bad enough in the five-run ninth that fans gave a mock standing ovation when reliever Brian Moehler finally recorded the final out.
The Astros were never really in the game to begin with, thanks in large part to a poor performance from starter Woody Williams. For the second time in three games, the Rangers crushed a Houston pitcher early, shelling Williams for five runs in four-plus innings, including three home runs and five extra-base hits. Mark Teixeira, Ramon Vazquez and Victor Diaz all homered in the first five innings against the Houston starter.
"[The Rangers] had [Woody] on the ropes a little bit and they didn't let him off," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I don't think he had his best stuff today. He got behind a few times and they made him pay badly. He wasn't able to get his curveball over the plate today, and he never could get into a good rhythm."
Williams' ERA soared to 5.52 and the loss dropped him to 1-6 on the season.
"It's the worst stretch of my career, as far as I know," Williams said. "I'm just going to keep plugging away, working hard and hopefully this thing will turn around. [The Rangers] had a great game plan against me today, and it carried over throughout.
"They made me throw a lot of strikes, and they weren't really biting on pitches just off the plate. And the pitches I did throw over the plate were a little elevated."
The damage would've been far worse if not for a spectacular diving catch from Lance Berkman on a liner down the first-base line, robbing Michael Young of an extra-base hit with the bases loaded in the fourth and keeping the Texas lead at 4-1.
"That, to me, could have turned the game," Garner said. "It was a terrific play that could've saved the ballgame at that point. We just couldn't get any momentum from it."
Rookie Hunter Pence generated the only offense for the Astros, hitting a triple to deep center in the second and scoring on a groundout from Luke Scott. Pence also added a double in the fourth. The rest of the team, however, had four hits combined, and went without a hit from the end of the fifth until Mike Lamb's leadoff single in the ninth.
"It's so funny, because three days ago, everyone was saying, 'Oh, [the offense] is great,'" Berkman said. "Now, it's an epidemic. It's a couple bad games in a row. It's the fickle nature of offense. It comes and goes. That's why pitching and defense wins championships, and it always will."
Astros pitchers surrendered a season-worst six home runs Sunday, with two each to Teixeira and Diaz. Vazquez and Kenny Lofton also homered for Texas.
Garner started Mark Loretta at shortstop for the second consecutive game, but the move cost the Astros defensively, with two hard-hit balls slightly eluding Loretta's range. Mike Lamb committed an error at third.
But the story for the Astros, again, was the inability -- other than Pence -- for Astros hitters to put together a rally after falling behind early.
"We've got a lot of guys struggling," Garner said. "We just didn't swing the bats good. We couldn't hit the fastball. We've got to get our bat heads in the zone better. It's that simple."
Ben Dubose is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.