Astros overwhelmed by Yanks in finale
Oswalt roughed up, offense comes up empty in fifth straight loss
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Cecil Cooper was vocally upset about his team's performance in a 13-0 loss to the Yankees on Sunday.
As pitching woes continued to plague them, the Astros' offense also struggled in the final game of their sixth-straight series loss and their worst margin of defeat this season.
Cooper said he was tired of the lack of effort and performance he has seen from the team.
"I was embarrassed," Cooper said of the loss. "We're not going to settle for it anymore. It won't happen again. If you don't play hard, you don't play. It's that simple. We didn't play hard. We didn't even show up, didn't even compete. There were 40,000 people here, and we don't even show up."
The skipper relayed that same message to his team in the clubhouse following the game. He said if they weren't embarrassed at their performance before the blowout, they had better be now.
The clubhouse emptied quickly following the speech, with just a few stragglers left to remark on his emotions.
Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt, who gave up seven runs (three earned) on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, said he did not know what to think of Cooper's message.
He said he did not know who Cooper was referring to showing a lack of effort, but he felt some moves made today might not have been the best for the team.
"We didn't have the original team in," Oswalt said. "You've got one of the finest hitters in baseball in Lance [Berkman]. Ty Wigginton has been swinging the bat unbelievable. [Kazuo] Matsui gets on and works the count for us. That's three guys that could have gotten us on the board. I'm not taking anything away from any of the other guys; it's just that when you're regulars are not in, it seems like there's not as high intensity of play."
First baseman Berkman, second baseman Matsui and third baseman Ty Wigginton were all out of Sunday's game. Berkman was held out partially because he had some tenderness in his left leg after being hit in the Astros' previous series.
Darin Erstad, Mark Loretta and Geoff Blum replaced the starters.
Oswalt (5-7, 5.04) said he did not necessarily feel he pitched badly and hinted the strike zone may have been a bit small.
The Astros, who had seven hits and two errors against New York, left 10 runners on base. Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (8-2, 4.07) allowed six hits in five innings, throwing just 71 pitches to Oswalt's 118 before leaving with a foot injury incurred while running the bases.
"If I'd have gave up one run, we'd have lost," Oswalt said. "They shut us out, so you've got to pitch pretty good to win. I thought I threw some quality pitches."
But Oswalt had trouble finishing off hitters. He struck out six while walking four, but he had some 10- and 11-pitch at-bats that caused his pitch count to soar.
"They have an approach where they try to work the starter," he said of the Yankees' batters. "They get taught that early in the Minor Leagues to ... not be free-swinging. It makes the pitcher work a little bit. With them it doesn't seem to matter whether you get an 0-2 or a 2-0 [count]; they're going to make you work."
Wesley Wright, who entered in relief of Oswalt with two outs in the sixth, gave up two home runs in the eight-run inning.
While Cooper took some of the blame for the Astros' recent poor performance, left fielder Carlos Lee said the players are ultimately the ones at fault and the ones who need to change.
"The intensity seems like it's not there," Lee said. "It seems like we have to refuel and go at it again, be more aggressive, have more excitement. It seems like we're dead out there."
Berkman said Cooper never yelled at the team in the postgame meeting but emphasized that something needed to change. He said Cooper told them every player needed to step up and show more desire.
But Berkman also said baseball is not the type of sport in which excitement necessarily produces results.
"This isn't a sport where you can enthusiastically charge out there -- it's not war," he said. "If the other [pitcher] is really good, you're not going to get anything done. You've got to execute the fundamentals of the game. You've got to hit, you've got to pitch and you've got to play defense. If you don't do those things, all the enthusiasm in the world is not going to make a hill of beans' worth of difference."
The mood in the clubhouse is not one of defeat, he said, but the players certainly are not satisfied with their current status. They are a season-high 12 games out of first place in the National League Central.
"I can tell you the guys in here are not laying down or giving up," Berkman said. "I didn't take a poll of the guys in here. But what are you going to do? We gave up 13 runs, we didn't score any runs. We looked bad. I can't emotionally encapsulate it and feed it to the public, but nobody likes to lose."
Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.