Lamb, Buchholz lead Astros to win

Lamb, Buchholz lead Astros to win

ARLINGTON -- As Mike Lamb was having the ring finger on his left hand X-rayed late Saturday morning, he never could have imagined that not only would he play the full nine innings that day, but he'd have one of his best offensive performances of the year.

Lamb was 3-for-5 and fell a single short of the cycle, leading the Astros to a 7-0 win over the Rangers before 35,131 on a hot and steamy day at Ameriquest Field. Lamb's performance was a far cry from his demeanor before the game, when he wondered if he should play at all.

"Pressed into the lineup, he did a marvelous job," manager Phil Garner observed.

Lamb, suffering from a sore finger after awkwardly catching a Kevin Mench line drive Friday night, was examined by a Rangers team doctor, who took an X-ray of the finger and told Lamb it's either: a) not broken, or b) a minute fracture.

"It's going to be sore for three days or possibly 10," Lamb said.

Unsure what to make of that diagnosis, Lamb left the finger exposed by cutting off that part of his batting glove, and he also put a little pad on the handle of his bat to ensure his other fingers were not pressing on the injury.

The adjustments worked. Lamb doubled in his first at-bat, homered in his second and tripled in his fourth. He approached the plate in the eighth inning knowing he needed a single to complete the cycle, partly because Brad Ausmus had just offered to pay Lamb's clubhouse dues if he recorded a simple base hit.

"Then he was asking me if I wanted anything else," Lamb said. "I was like, 'I'm not going to ask for a car.' I guess I should have."

Instead, Lamb sent a towering shot to center that would have been a home run had Gary Matthews Jr. not made an over-the-wall leaping grab to rob Lamb of his second long ball of the day.

Lamb gave Matthews a quick clap after the Texas center fielder had retreated into the dugout. And when Matthews reached first base on a walk in the bottom of the frame, Lamb told him it was one of the best plays he'd ever seen.

"It was an outstanding play," Lamb said. "It's going to be on the highlights for a while, and it should. I'm a baseball fan, too, and those types of catches are entertaining and great for the game. It stinks it happened to me. It could have been a really, really good day for me instead of just a good day for me. We won the game, and that makes it easier to take. It's better than being down by three and having that happen."

Right-hander Taylor Buchholz made sure the Astros wouldn't have to play out of a deficit on this day. Buchholz extended his streak of shutout innings against the Rangers to 16, adding seven scoreless frames to his shutout of Texas at Minute Maid Park on May 21.

"He's starting again tomorrow," Garner joked.

"Mentally, physically, [in the] standings, everything you can imagine -- we needed to win one."
-- Astros manager Phil Garner

Buchholz yielded only two hits, walked three and struck out six, and he did so without having great location, according Garner.

"I think he might have been a little effectively wild," Garner said. "He normally is in the strike zone more. Perhaps what saved him is he threw a lot of breaking balls for strikes, and it appeared he got a lot of swings and misses and some quick outs on those. He used his changeup nicely when he got down a couple of times and got an out without pitching deep into the count."

Buchholz agreed that he had to turn to pitches other than his fastball.

"I was getting behind in the count a lot with the fastball, and I was able to come back with a bunch of changeups and curveballs later in the count," he said.

As for his dominance over the Rangers this year, the rookie humbly chalked it up to nothing more than a mere coincidence.

"I don't know what it is," Buchholz said. "I know they're an aggressive team. I know going into that, that I have to be able to throw all my pitches for strikes -- especially my curveball, slider and changeup. I've been able to do that both starts.

"They're one of the better hitting teams in the league. It's tough to do that to any team. I'm just happy with the way things have turned out against them."

Rangers manager Buck Showalter called Buchholz's performance "frustrating."

"Buchholz has pitched well against us, but other teams have had success against him," Showalter said. "That's why it's so frustrating."

At the official halfway point of the season, the Astros are 39-42, the same record they had after 81 games in 2005.

To Garner, the comparison of records from one year to the next is meaningless.

"It's nothing," he said. "It really doesn't matter because we're not playing against last year's team. It matters not a thing."

But Saturday's win, just the Astros' second on this extended road trip, was fairly significant.

"Mentally, physically, [in the] standings, everything you can imagine -- we needed to win one," Garner said.

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