Paulino dinged in return to Astros

Paulino dinged in return to Astros

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Felipe Paulino thought he had good movement on his fastball Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants. Too often that fastball moved over the center of the plate.

Houston called up Paulino on Monday night from Triple-A Round Rock to start in place of injured ace Roy Oswalt, nursing a strained lower back. Paulino gave up nine hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss at Minute Maid Park.

"He had problems putting hitters away," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said of Paulino. "His stuff was good. His velocity was good. He didn't make enough quality pitches. It's a little growing pain you could say.

"Remember he missed all last year [with a pinched nerve in his right arm]. Give him some credit for bouncing back and working hard and being in real good shape. His arm's good. We've just got to get him over the hump."

The Giants tattooed Paulino for nine hits, including two homers, and eight runs in only two innings in his last start in the Majors, July 3 at San Francisco.

This time, Paulino kept the ball in the park. Of the nine hits he allowed Tuesday night, eight of them were singles.

"I try to come in and fill a spot," Paulino said of the Astros rotation. "My fastball was moving, but it stayed in the middle. Down the middle, down the middle. They make adjustments."

Paulino didn't get much luck with many of San Francisco's hits just finding a hole.

"That's baseball," he said. "I tried to make adjustments. They make swings, find a hole and get a base hit. My trouble here is to try to be consistent every start. That's what I'm looking for. Seven strong innings every time."

Paulino pitched his best game of the season for the Astros when he threw seven innings June 27 against Detroit, giving up just three hits and one run to earn the win.

He wasn't the same pitcher Tuesday night.

"There were some ground-ball base hits, one or two swinging bunts, one jamski," Cooper said. "It wasn't like they hit the ball the way they did in San Francisco [off him]."

The Astros looked helpless against San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez, who pitched seven solid innings, his second-longest start of the season next to his no-hitter against San Diego.

"I thought we had a chance to get him early with a leadoff walk," Cooper said. "After that, he threw well, he threw strikes, kept his fastball down pretty well. We didn't have a lot of chances."

Michael Bourn walked to lead off the bottom of the first for Houston, stole second and moved to third on a groundout by Hunter Pence. The Giants intentionally walked Carlos Lee, and Miguel Tejada hit a long drive to left-center with two outs.

But Giants left fielder Eugenio Velez ran it down, just to the right of the Crawford Boxes that would have been a three-run homer for Tejada.

"When he hit it, I actually thought it was going to hook enough to get in [the stands]," Cooper said. "The game could have changed right there. He hit it good. That's all you can do is put a good swing on it."

"He hit it pretty good and I thought it was going to hit the wall, but it kept going the other way," Sanchez said of Tejeda. "After that, it was kind of like starting fresh and me having to go back out there and do my job."

The Astros didn't get another runner to second base off Sanchez until the eighth inning when Jeff Keppinger singled and pinch-hitter Geoff Blum walked to open the inning and Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled his starter.

"He was attacking the hitters, throwing strikes and had good stuff," said Keppinger, who managed two of the four hits off Sanchez, all singles. "He threw a lot of fastballs."

"I didn't see many pitches from him," Pence said. "I was swinging at everything. All his stuff was great. The changeup was one of the best I've seen. He had some unbelievable stuff. That's some of the best stuff I've seen from a left-hander."

Sanchez threw 106 pitches, struck out eight and walked three.

"Lately I've been throwing less pitches per inning and getting deeper into the game," he said. "That's what's expected from me and that's what I'm trying to do."

"He kept the ball down," Cooper said. "The guy had good stuff. He just wasn't in much trouble. He kept pounding the zone with his fastball."

The Astros broke up the shutout in the ninth when Lee doubled and Tejada singled before Chris Coste's groundout scored a run off reliever Waldis Joaquin.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.