Most baseball people casually look forward to days off, but in the Astros' case, their down time scheduled for Thursday carries a little extra significance. This team clearly could use a break.
"At this point in time, it probably is what we need," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We've had a rough stretch here, the last eight to 10 days, so yeah. We probably do need a break to get away from it and kind of refresh ourselves a little bit and hopefully come with some energy and be better focused come Friday, with a sense of urgency."
Asked if he senses that his team is low on energy, Cooper responded, "When guys pitch well against you, it's going to look that way. If you don't go out and throw up zeros and they pitch well against you, you're going to look like you're flat and like you're not a very good team."
Mission accomplished for Bronson Arroyo, who logged his seventh career complete game on a five-hit masterpiece. Michael Bourn led off the game with a walk and scored on a Lance Berkman sacrifice fly, but after that, the Astros barely touched the Cincinnati right-hander.
"I wish I had the answer [for the Astros' poor offensive showing]," Cooper said. "The guy uses his breaking ball, keeps you off-balance -- he spots his fastball. Some of those guys are tough to handle like that."
Meanwhile, the Reds were homer-happy against Felipe Paulino, who yielded a solo shot to Jerry Hairston Jr. in the first frame and gave up two long balls to Jay Bruce -- a solo homer in the fourth and a two-run shot in the sixth.
Before the game, Cooper definitively told reporters that Paulino would receive another start after this one, no matter how the right-hander performed. That took away any speculation that this start against the Reds was an audition of sorts, in case anyone thought the Astros might consider replacing Paulino with Brandon Backe, who was activated from the disabled list after the game.
Backe will work out of the bullpen for the time being, while Paulino will focus on his start against the Rockies next Tuesday. On his performance against the Reds, Cooper gave his young starter a thumbs-up.
"I thought he did OK," Cooper said. "Just a couple mistakes. I thought he did a pretty good job. He just got one ball that I thought caught too much of the plate to Bruce. Other than that, the home run in the first inning was a ball down that I thought was in a pretty good spot, which you tip your hat to the other guy for that.
"I just thought he pitched pretty good. I was encouraged by what I saw."
Paulino said he wasn't aware that Cooper had guaranteed him another start. He also gave himself a relatively positive review.
"I felt really great now," Paulino said. "The only thing that matters to me is I'm healthy -- I can throw my pitches. What happened today, that happens. I just have to keep being aggressive with my pitches."
Defense played a small role in the loss as well. Willy Taveras bunted with two outs in the third, but Humberto Quintero's throw to Berkman was wide and went into the right-field corner. Taveras ended up on third. Berkman argued that Taveras was running inside the baseline to first, but to no avail.
The Astros have not won since they beat the Brewers in the second game of their recent six-game homestand. Since then, they've dropped one to the Brewers and were swept in three-game sets by the Rangers and Reds.
The losing streak is Houston's longest since losing eight straight from June 11- 19 last season.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.