04/17/08 5:55 PM ET
Backe takes step back in loss
Astros righty hit hard after opening '08 with three gems
By Andy Jasner / Special to MLB.com
The Astros haven't always scored a lot of runs, but they have received consistent pitching and excellent defense the whole season. On Thursday, nothing seemed to go right in the final game of a three-game set in Philadelphia.
Pitchers Brandon Backe, Dave Borkowski, Oscar Villarreal, Geoff Geary and Jose Valverde were knocked around for 16 hits in the first six innings of the Astros' 10-2 loss to the Phillies before a crowd of 33,526 at Citizens Bank Park. Only Geary managed to go unscathed, tossing a scoreless seventh.
"[Thursday] was a stinker," manager Cecil Cooper said. "It was not a good day for us in any way. We didn't swing it very well. When you don't hit, don't pitch it and don't catch it, it's not a god day."
Meanwhile, the Astros' offense went silent and their defense, which had been spectacular up until now, was a little spotty with a pair of errors. They entered the game with three errors on the year, the fewest in the National League.
Backe had a tough outing, giving up 10 hits and six runs (five earned) in three-plus innings. Chase Utley homered off Backe in the fourth.
"I look at it this way -- it's the first game we really didn't pitch well," Cooper said. "We've pitched pretty well. [Thursday] was just one of the days we didn't pitch well. For whatever reason, Brandon did not seem to have his consistent fastball. It was up in the zone a lot. He didn't have a good curveball. He needs to have a good breaking ball to be effective."
Backe said some of his pitches were not located properly. However, some others were placed perfectly and still wound up being hits.
"There were some pitches that were up," Backe said. "There were also some pitches that I threw right where I wanted. They did a heck of a job and put the bat on the ball. That's just the way it goes. I can't do much about making my pitch and giving up a hit."
For a team that has been fundamentally sound all season, this particular loss was one the players were told to forget about immediately.
"Obviously, this is something that's going to be rare throughout this whole season," Backe said. "It starts with me not having a good day. I think it trickled on down to most of us on the team out on the field. When you give up three runs in the first, it's very difficult to come back. From that point, things didn't go well for us the rest of the game.
"It was a bad game. Let's just hope those are few and far between."
Villarreal was later greeted in the sixth inning with back-to-back home runs by Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell.
Valverde gave up a two-run shot to Chris Coste, who tied his career high with four hits. It's been a tough series for Valverde, who remains stuck on 99 career saves. On Friday, he had a chance to secure save No. 100, but he surrendered four runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 4-3 loss.
"I saw some plusses," Cooper said. "He had some chances to work on some things from [Wednesday]. His fastball had some more life on it and he threw some good pitches. Now all we've got to do is get him to hit his spots a little better. The confidence is still there. He's still confident and we're confident in him."
Miguel Tejada had three hits for the Astros, including a solo home run off Phillies starter Brett Myers in the fourth, which cut the deficit to 4-1. Tejada finished the game 3-for-4 and raised his average to .328.
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.