Paulino dominates Cubs for first victory
Righty allows just one run on five hits over eight strong innings
HOUSTON -- The way things have been going for Felipe Paulino this year, the three runs the Astros scored against the Cubs on Friday night must have seemed like an offensive eruption.
The Astros certainly didn't leave the big right-hander much room for error, but it's not like he needed it. Paulino held the Cubs to five hits and one run in eight innings to win his first game of the season and send Houston to its fourth consecutive win, 3-1, at Minute Maid Park.
"It's nice to see Paulino throw well, and we got him all those runs," Astros manager Brad Mills joked.
Paulino (1-7) won his first game in his 11th start of the season, winning for the first time since his final start of 2009. He walked two batters (one intentional) and struck out seven to lower his ERA to 4.01, which is more indicative of how well he's pitched than his win-loss record.
"I feel confident right now and that's a good thing for me," said Paulino, who threw 120 pitches. "I feel 100 percent confident in myself and any pitch I throw in the game."
Astros center fielder Michael Bourn had his footprints all over the box score, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a stolen base and a hustling double. He also made a terrific running catch in left-center field in the seventh to rob Mike Fontenot of a hit.
Surging slugger Lance Berkman went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs to raise his batting average to a season-high .260. With his fourth three-hit game of the season, Berkman is hitting .359 in his past 10 games.
"It was one of those games -- literally it felt like we scored 10 runs, but we only won 3-1," Berkman said. "We had a lot of guys on base and had a lot of hits [nine], but three's enough to win."
Closer Matt Lindstrom, who had blown saves in three of his previous four outings, looked like his old self by mowing down the Cubs in the ninth inning for his 12th save. He struck out Xavier Nady swinging on a 97-mph fastball to end the game and pumped his fist.
"Sometimes it feels you're on a roller-coaster ride," Lindstrom said. "Sometimes you have bad games and don't get the job done, but you have to wipe the slate clean and bounce back, and I was able to do that tonight. We have to come back tomorrow and hopefully win the series."
Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd had a pair of doubles, but he still tipped his cap to Paulino.
"He located all his pitches, which made him tough," Byrd said. "He stayed strong the whole game. He was anywhere from 92 to 97 [mph]. Then he threw the changeup from 84 to 86, and going from 97 to 84, that's tough."
Paulino entered the game suffering from the lowest run support in the Majors over the past two seasons, but the Astros scored early against Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano (1-4), a Houston nemesis who was making his first start since April 20.
Bourn singled and scored on a Berkman double in the first inning. Bourn then singled, stole second base and scored on a Jeff Keppinger single in the fifth. Keppinger wound up scoring from first base on Berkman's double off the left-field wall to make it 3-1. Berkman's double came from the right side of the plate after the Cubs brought in lefty Tom Gorzelanny to face him.
"I didn't have a different swing right- and left-handed, and there's different things I think about when I'm hitting right- or left-handed," Berkman said. "I try to go up there and try to execute my game plan right-handed, which pretty much consists of trying to jerk the ball in the corner. It worked out tonight."
With the pitching, offense and defense all clicking, the Astros even turned to a little acting to get the best of the Cubs.
Houston catcher Humberto Quintero admitted to laying on top of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro following a collision at third base when a throw from across the diamond rolled into left field. Castro slid into the leg of Quintero, who hustled to cover third on a bunt, and was bruised and shaken up. Even if he wasn't hurt, the stocky Quintero made sure he wasn't getting up.
"I did it on purpose," Quintero said. "The trainer came to me, and I said, 'I don't have [anything wrong].' I did it on purpose so the guy didn't run to home plate."
It served as proof the Astros were prepared to do just about anything to give Paulino his first win.
"His record doesn't indicate how he's been for us," Bourn said. "We were happy to get him his first victory. He should have gotten it in Cincinnati [on Sunday]. He should have got it before then, but he's been pitching well. I did a good job on offense today, but he's the player of the game overall."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.