Astros blanked, drop fourth straight

Astros blanked, drop fourth straight

PITTSBURGH -- Manager Phil Garner kept it short and sweet after the Astros were blanked, 3-0, by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.

"We stunk tonight," he said. "We absolutely stunk. [A] very bad game and we looked like we had no clue what we were doing tonight."

Indeed, from the Astros' viewpoint, only two positives came out of this effort. Woody Williams registered a quality, seven-inning outing, and Craig Biggio logged two hits, bumping him to 2,948 for his career.

Other than that, the Astros were wholly unspectacular. Williams pitched well enough to finally log his first win as an Astro, but his offense was helpless against left-hander Paul Maholm. The left-hander registered his first win of the season and his first career complete game and shutout.

Maholm yielded three hits -- two to Biggio and one borderline infield single to Humberto Quintero.

Garner, typically, didn't want to hand over too much credit to the opposition.

"I think it was more us," Garner said. "Obviously, [Maholm] pitched well and don't take anything away from a complete-game shutout, but we didn't do a very good job tonight."

A week ago, the Astros were congratulating themselves for climbing to the .500 mark after beginning the season so poorly.

After Tuesday's loss, the Astros again fell under .500, dropping their fourth straight game to drop 9-10 on the season. They're also 0-4 against a Pirates club that hasn't sniffed a winning season in a decade-and-a-half.

"We couldn't mount anything," Garner said. "I don't know if 'mad' is the right word. We're just better than that. These guys are 4-0 against us. What have we scored, two runs [at] most in a game? Their pitching's not that good. They've pitched pretty good. It's just not that good."

But it was good enough to beat the Astros' hitting, a shabby effort overshadowed only by a subpar defensive showing. In the first frame, Jack Wilson knocked a double to right, but that ball may have been caught had Jason Lane taken his first step back instead of forward.

With Wilson on second, Jason Bay hit a deep fly ball to straightaway center, one that was considered by Garner as catchable until it bounced off Chris Burke's glove. The run-scoring play was ruled a double. Garner begs to differ.

"Burke should have caught that ball in center field," Garner said. "No way that should have been ruled a hit. It's a play that needs to be caught. It's a play he can make. We gave them a run right there."

Williams yielded a solo homer to Ronny Paulino in the second and an RBI single to Bay in the third, but Williams did not allow a baserunner in three of his final four frames.

"Believe it or not, I felt like I was in a rhythm the whole game," Williams said. "The first run was kind of fluke deal. The home run was a chest-high pitch and he did a good job getting on top of it.

"Jack Wilson led off the inning with a double that was a pretty good pitch, one I wanted to throw. Not a whole lot you can do in those situations. I felt like with a little change of luck it could have been 0-0 after seven."

Said Garner: "I thought Woody did a nice job tonight. He mixed his pitches well and did a nice job. He should have given up only two runs. We gave them a run and we should make those plays, too. Nice rhythm, worked fast. It's the old adage -- work fast, throw strikes, change speeds."

The Astros did their best to make sure this was a quick one. They didn't have a runner in scoring position throughout the entire one-hour, 57-minute affair.

Biggio's first hit was negated when he was erased on a double play, and his second hit in the fourth went for naught when he was stranded in between first and second on a botched hit-and-run play after Burke swung and missed.

"Nine times out of 10, when you don't put it in play, that guy's out," Biggio said. "That's the way it goes. We tried to make something happen, it just didn't work out."

The Astros were hoping to gain some ground during their extended four-city, nine-game road trip, but after Tuesday's loss, they're 3-4 with two games left before heading home. They'd prefer not to leave the Steel City in an 0-6 hole versus the Bucs to start the season.

"You've got to forget about it," Biggio said. "Obviously, the three games at home [versus Pittsburgh] we didn't play very well, at all. Today, we just didn't hit. We didn't make any plays when we needed to. We just need to play a little bit better the last two games we've got here."

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