Eighth straight defeat vexes Astros, Oswalt
Right-hander's sixth quality start squandered in shutout
HOUSTON -- The frustration was oozing from every possible corner of the clubhouse. Michael Bourn spoke about it, and so did Hunter Pence and Lance Berkman. As for Roy Oswalt, he chose his few words carefully so he wouldn't let feelings get the best of him.
This was about as disheartening a loss as the Astros have had to suffer through this year, and they have had more than a few. They squandered another terrific pitching performance from Oswalt and watched their struggling offense get shut out for the fourth time this season.
"I ain't mad," Oswalt said. "It's part of the game, I guess."
It's part of the game Oswalt knows all too well.
Oswalt delivered his sixth quality start of the season Tuesday night by holding the D-backs to five hits and one run -- a 447-foot home run by Justin Upton in the third inning -- and struck out eight batters, but the Astros lost their eighth consecutive game, 1-0, at Minute Maid Park.
"It's a great performance wasted," Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said.
Oswalt, who lowered his ERA to 2.48, was trying his best to hide his emotions following the game. Arizona starter Ian Kennedy (2-1) pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed eight hits, only one of which went for extra bases.
The Astros have lost eight consecutive games for the second time this year and have scored 13 runs during that span.
"First of all, I want to say Roy did a magnificent job," Bourn said. "We can't ask for no more from our pitcher than that. He went out there and gave us seven innings and one run and hit. They got one home run, but other than that, he dominated them, absolutely dominated them. So whenever you got a guy pitching like that, you've got to find a way to win. That's all there is to it. I can't really explain it. Nothing else to it."
Oswalt wasn't in much mood to talk after the game and bit his lip as he addressed reporters.
"It's part of the game," he said. "You've got to deal with it and keep going."
Did he sense it was going to be one of those nights?
"Whatever," he said.
Is this the best he has pitched to start a season?
"Two-and-four," Oswalt said. "I've been better than that."
Oswalt even delivered the Astros' best at-bat of the game when he battled Kennedy for 12 pitches in the second inning before coming through with a single and drawing a standing ovation from the Minute Maid Park crowd.
"He knows it -- as a pitcher throwing to another pitcher -- you can't really throw anything else [but fastballs]," Kennedy said. "Because then you feel bad if you throw a ball and you throw an offspeed pitch and he takes it. Then you feel like, 'Well I tried to throw a fastball and he got himself out.' And he knows all about that. I tip my hat to him. He fouled so many pitches off [six], it was kind of getting frustrating and kind of comical at the same time."
The roar of approval from the fans could have been interpreted as appreciation that anyone -- even if it was the pitcher -- was able to have a good at-bat during a stretch in which Astros hitters have gone down too meekly at the plate too many times.
Houston was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine on base.
"Any time you have a guy like Roy throw such a great game and have some opportunities we weren't able to scratch one across, it's tough," manager Brad Mills said. "But like I said, we just keep moving and hopefully in the right direction. There's no doubt, it's tough, but that's what we're here for to keep it moving and keep doing the things we need to do to be successful."
Bourn doubled to start the game and moved to third with one out but was left stranded when Berkman struck out and Pence grounded out to end the inning. They stranded two more in the second inning and two more in the fourth. Carlos Lee, Berkman and Pence -- the Astros' Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters -- were a combined 2-for-11 and continue to struggle all at once.
"Tonight was frustrating for everybody in here, I'm not going to lie," Bourn said. "You never want to see somebody pitch like that and not [get a win]. I'm not going to give credit to their pitcher this time. It was us more than their pitcher. We could have hit him, we should have hit him, but we didn't. I don't know what else to say."
Pence couldn't help but let his frustration show when he struck out looking in the eighth inning and walked back to the clubhouse jawing at the umpire. He may as well have been talking for the entire team, a team wondering what has gone wrong.
"It's very frustrating," Pence said. "You lose, 1-0, and the way our offense is going, to have a pitching performance like that is very frustrating, yes."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.