Lee takes blame for offensive drought
Slugger trying to shake off slow start to the season
CHICAGO -- Clean-up hitter Carlos Lee, who entered Friday's series at Wrigley Field in a 3-for-35 slump with no RBIs to start the season, said he takes responsibility for the Astros' offensive struggles. Houston had a .220 batting average with only two homers and 18 RBIs through nine games.
"We're struggling right now trying to score runs, and I take full blame, because I've been in big spots in a lot of games and I haven't been able to come up with the big hit," he said.
Lee entered Friday in a 1-for-31 slump, including an 0-for-16 funk that tied the longest hitless streak of his career. Since last year, he has started 13 consecutive games without recording an RBI, which his tied for the second-longest streak of his career.
The RBI number is perhaps the most shocking, considering Lee has reached 100 RBIs in five consecutive seasons and six of the past seven.
"My swing is feeling a lot better and I'm hitting the ball hard and putting good swings on the ball," Lee said. "I'm not doing anything differently or changing my swing. I'm trying to find rhythm. That's the problem right now. I don't know how you lose it like that.
"It's funny. I came out of Spring Training swinging the bat real well and all of a sudden somebody turned the lights on and turned mine off. I guess it's a matter of finding the spot and not being too far out front or too far back. I need to find the middle spot and get there to help the team."
Sampson off to strong start in 2010
CHICAGO -- For the second consecutive year, right-hander Chris Sampson is off to a quick start out of the bullpen. He needed only 16 pitches to get through two scoreless innings Thursday in St. Louis, lowering his ERA to a tidy 1.23 in six games.
Sampson posted a 2.83 ERA in 41 appearances in the first half of last year, but struggled in the second half (18.78 ERA in eight games) because of a heavy workload. The 31-year-old is taking his success in stride, and credits new pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and manager Brad Mills with helping him get off to a good start.
"I feel even better than I did the first half of last season," Sampson said. "With Arnsberg and Mills this year, they understand you can't run guys out there every single day and for multiple innings every single day and they're a lot easier to talk to. They want you to be completely honest with them and let them know how you feel because they don't want to run you out there if you're not feeling right.
"It's not going to help players, not going to help the team if you're not 100 percent. They do a great job with all of us, using everybody in the bullpen and getting everybody in games and getting them innings and do a great job of mixing it up. It's just a heck of a lot better atmosphere, and it's a lot of fun to play for them."
First win brings Mills congratulations
CHICAGO -- After getting his first career win as a Major League manager on Thursday in St. Louis, manager Brad Mills said his cell phone was filled with countless text messages and voicemails from people he's crossed paths with throughout his career, including Astros owner Drayton McLane.
"It was a lot," he said. "It was everybody ... outside of baseball, inside of baseball, both leagues. The people were great. If I was to mention somebody, I'd leave somebody else out and that would make me feel bad, but everybody was great."
Mills, who won 739 games as a manager in the Minor Leagues, was given the game ball Thursday by reliever Matt Lindstrom, but that was the only memento he took home. When asked by reporters what happened to the lineup card, Mills was perplexed.
"I've got to ask [bench coach] Al [Pedrique] where it is," he said. "I have no idea."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.