Good pitching, bad pitching foil Astros

Astros blanked as Norris falls

PHOENIX -- The Astros couldn't solve D-backs starter Jon Garland on Saturday night, losing a 9-0 decision to the D-backs at Chase Field.

Garland (8-11) pitched seven innings of five-hit ball and earned the victory as the Astros lost for fifth time in their last six games. On this nine-game trip through St. Louis, Arizona and Chicago, the Astros have won only once in the first five games with the finale of the three-game series slated for Sunday afternoon.

Overall, their road woes continue as they've lost 16 of their last 21 away from Minute Maid Park. At 62-67, the Astros are now 13 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central.

"There's not a whole lot you can do" when the opposing pitcher is so good, Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "You go up there and try to be aggressive swinging the bats. Get something in the zone to hit. But that guy [Garland] made it tough for us. He was strike one, strike one every time you turned around. When that happens, a pitcher can do a lot of things."

It was a lethal combination. Garland pitched to 26 batters and only two made it as far as second base. He walked one and whiffed six.

"When someone is pitching good against you it makes it look like you don't know what to do from an offensive standpoint," Cooper said. "When you're not pitching very well it makes the other guys look like pretty good hitters. We haven't pitched well for the last two days. That makes their hitters look a whole lot better than they are."

To wit, the D-backs jumped all over right-hander Bud Norris (3-3), who lasted just five innings, allowing six runs on five hits, including two home runs, and took the loss. Norris also walked four, hit a batter and tossed a wild pitch.

"Obviously you want to win ballgames," Norris said about the losing streak. "It's tough. We're definitely in a little bit of a slide right now. We've got a lot to learn from it, us younger guys especially."

In two nights at Chase, Houston's young starters were crushed for 14 runs on 13 hits -- five homers. Yorman Bazardo took the licking on Friday night when was crushed for eight runs on eight hits by the time he left after allowing the first five batters of the third inning to reach safely.

"These are the young guys we're definitely looking toward the future with," Cooper said. "Once again, command was the whole issue. In this league you can't throw 94-95 [mph] without command. You've got to have command. And that's the bottom line. The guys have got to figure that out. You can't do it for them. You can tweak the mechanics here and there, but otherwise it's up to them."

The Astros couldn't generate any offense against the right-handed Garland and were behind, 5-0, after the D-backs scored four times in the third. A run-scoring triple by Ryan Roberts and a two-run, 439-foot homer blasted by Mark Reynolds (his 40th) were the big blows of the inning.

The D-backs, lodged in fourth place in the NL West, have scored 34 runs in winning their last three games after losing seven in a row.

In addition, the Astros got a scare in the seventh inning when Stephen Drew lined a ball off the inside of reliever Felipe Paulino's right knee. Paulino is slated for a spot start on Wednesday against the Cubs in Chicago.

Paulino hopped off the mound as Drew was safe on the infield single. After conferring with trainers he remained in the game and faced three more batters.

Paulino said the shot hit muscle, which still had a red hue to it in the clubhouse after the game.

"I'll be fine tomorrow," he said.

On that matter Cooper didn't sound concerned.

"He just got the ball off the side of his leg," Cooper said. "He should be OK for Wednesday."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.