Astros' bats silent in loss

Astros' bats silent in loss

ARLINGTON -- The scoreless streak ended, but unfortunately for the Houston Astros, the losing -- and the mounting frustration -- live on.

The Astros dropped the series opener with the Texas Rangers, 3-1, extending their losing streak to four games as they fell to 1-6 on their nine-game road trip before 40,177 Friday night at Ameriquest Field.

The evening looked somewhat promising in the beginning. Usually, scoring one run is no cause for celebration, but considering it had been four days since any Houston baserunner had come near home plate, Preston Wilson's RBI single in the second frame had to be of some relief to this struggling team.

The euphoria was short-lived. Lance Berkman scored on the hit, halting the team's scoreless streak at a whopping 21 innings. The Astros then began another drought that lasted through the final out, leaving Roy Oswalt in the cold. He logged a complete game, and also was charged with the loss.

"This is the worst I've seen us play in a long time," Oswalt said, referring more to the last month or so than to this game specifically.

Vicente Padilla was good, but perhaps not as good as it seemed. Following Wilson's second-inning hit, Padilla retired eight in a row and 13-of-14. It wasn't until Padilla was out of the game in the ninth that the Astros produced two baserunners in a single inning, and that went nowhere, too.

"It's going to look good for [Padilla], he gave up one run," manager Phil Garner said. "I think it's more us. We're just not swinging the bats very well. We're having a tough time. We're not getting the bat head out in the zone. He didn't particularly trick us tonight. He had a nice fastball. We had some pitches to hit, we just didn't do much with them."

Since starting the year 19-9, the Astros have gone 19-33. Friday's loss lowered their road record to a dismal 13-24.

Sure, they've run into good teams lately. After all, the White Sox and Tigers have the best records in baseball. To Oswalt, that excuse rings hollow.

"We played good teams all year last year and beat them," Oswalt said. "We're not playing. Bottom line is we're not playing ball. If we play like we're playing now, we'll be out of it by the end of August."

Or earlier. An argument could be made that at this exact point last year, the Astros' record was actually slightly worse, and look where that team ended up. But that doesn't hold much water, considering that team was on an upswing, having won 16 of 23.

Since sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley a couple of weeks ago, the Astros are 3-10.

"We need to pick it up for sure," Oswalt said. "Last year, we got on a roll before the All-Star break. This year we started off hot and now we've hit a slump. The team's just not playing together at all.

"Everyone's worried about somebody else doing something wrong instead of just playing their game and having a little fun. Nobody's having fun. Everybody's worried about losing. You can't go into a game worried about losing. You've got to have fun."

On Friday, the fun ended early. Although it was obvious Padilla was dominating the Astros, Oswalt kept the damage to a minimum. He yielded a solo homer to Ian Kinsler in the second and faced the minimum from the third through the sixth, with the help of two double plays.

The tie was broken in the seventh, an inning that began with a scary collision between center fielder Willy Taveras and second baseman Chris Burke, who ran into each other while chasing a Mark Teixeira bloop to shallow center.

Taveras slid in a sitting position, and Burke's left foot jammed into the upper part of Taveras' thigh, causing both players to topple. Neither moved from the turf for several moments, but after a lengthy meeting with athletic trainers Dave Labossiere and Rex Jones, both players remained in the game.

Burke bent back his big toe on the collision and will be re-evaluated Saturday morning prior to the middle game of the series. Taveras appears to be fine.

Oswalt then struck out Hank Blalock, but after issuing an intentional walk to Kevin Mench, Kinsler singled to center to load the bases. Brad Wilkerson was down in the count 1-2, but he patiently looked at three consecutive balls to draw the bases-loaded walk and put his team ahead, 2-1.

Back-to-back doubles by Mark DeRosa and Michael Young in the eighth provided what proved to be unnecessary insurance.

"I tried to hold on to the ball too tight and not throw it in the middle of the plate and give up two or three [runs]," Oswalt said of the walk to Wilkerson. "I knew we were in a position that I couldn't give up any. If I gave up a base hit right there at 3-2, the man at first is running. I give up three right there. I was trying to throw the ball where I wanted to -- I just held onto it too long."

The Astros did little to get back into the game. Padilla retired the side in the eighth, and Akinori Otsuka logged the save with a scoreless ninth.

Berkman, while hesitating to make excuses for the Astros' poor offense, did deflect some credit to the pitchers they've faced, especially on this road trip.

"I'm not making excuses for the offense because we haven't done a very good job," Berkman said. "But at the same time, the guys they're running out there -- we're seeing some excellent pitching. That's the name of the game. There's a reason why the Tigers have won 50 games, a reason the White Sox have won 50 games. It's not because they have great offenses. They have great pitching."

On Friday, the Astros did, too. And as has been the case for most of the season, it was wasted.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.