10/01/09 11:42 PM EST
Paulino finishes tough year on high note
Righty allows one run in five innings for first win since June
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Paulino, who hadn't won a game since June 27, pitched better during his seven-game losing streak than the numbers showed, primarily because he was often the victim of poor run support. That certainly wasn't an issue Thursday night.
Lance Berkman hit a two-run double in the first inning, Miguel Tejada added a two-run homer in the sixth and Paulino found the win column to lead Houston past Philadelphia, 5-3, in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park.
"We've always said all along, this kid is a work in progress," Astros interim manager Dave Clark said. "He's definitely a power arm. We just have to get him more consistent and make him more of a pitcher than a thrower, and he'll get better. He's got the stuff to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the big leagues, and that's what we're looking forward to."
Paulino (3-11) won his first game in 11 starts by holding the Phillies to six hits, three walks and one run in five innings. His seven-game losing streak was the longest in a single season by a Houston pitcher since Jose Lima set a club record with a 13-game losing streak in 2000.
"Much better," Tejada said of Paulino. "He showed today how good he can be in the future for this team. I think he's going to be learning how to pitch, and with his arm, he needs to learn how to win the big leagues. I think the kid is going to be [Justin] Verlander and [Zach] Greinke later on in his career, because he's throwing hard. He just needs to learn his location."
Houston split the four-game series in Philadelphia and finished the season with a 6-2 record against the Phillies, who clinched their third consecutive National League East division title Wednesday. The Astros finish the season with a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field beginning Friday.
"They've got a great team," Berkman said. "I think clearly whenever you're playing a team that's clinched the night before, there's going to be a little bit of a letdown. This is a game where you should we should win because of those circumstances, and I'm just glad we did."
Berkman hit a two-run double into right-center field in the first inning off Cliff Lee (7-4) to give the Astros a 2-0 lead, and Tejada ripped a two-run homer to left in the sixth to make it 4-1 and extend his hitting streak to 18 games.
"It seems like some of the matchups that didn't favor us, we've done OK, and then some that we probably should have taken advantage of, and we didn't," Berkman said. "Any time you have a really good pitcher, invariably, you have to get on him early. If they get into a rhythm, like he was able to, he kind of cruised there for a while. We were able to get a couple early, and Miggy had a big blow later in the game."
Tejada's hitting streak is the longest by an Astros player since Willy Taveras hit safely in a franchise-record 30 consecutive games in 2006. Tejada's two hits pushed his season total to 196, which moves him into sole possession of third place on Houston's single-season chart.
"It would be great and I'd like to do it, but right now, what I'd like is not to try to get to 200, just try to enjoy the game the most that I can, and I think that's why I feel comfortable at the plate," said Tejada, who added an RBI single in the seventh that made it 5-1.
"He takes it seriously," Clark said. "He goes up there and doesn't give away many at-bats, and that's why he's in the position he's in right now, closing in on 200 hits."
Things got interesting in the ninth when the Phillies strung together three consecutive hits after two outs against closer Jose Valverde and cut the lead to 5-3 on a two-run double by Pedro Feliz. But Valverde got Miguel Cairo to fly out to center to end the game and strand two runners on base.
Valverde has converted 20 consecutive save opportunities and had allowed runs in only two appearances since July 6 before Thursday. Jeff Fulchino, Wesley Wright and LaTroy Hawkins each threw a scoreless inning in relief.
"Any time you can come in and split a series against a really good ballclub like this, it makes you feel good," Clark said. "We had taken four from them at our place and we put a little scare in them the last couple of nights. It's always good to beat a club like this."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.