Astros not panicking about offensive woes

Astros not panicking about offensive woes

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Brett Myers, who was a part of back-to-back National League championships with the Phillies the previous two years, isn't used the kind of start his new team is dealing with after three games of the 2010 season.

The Astros are 0-3 after getting swept by the Giants at Minute Maid Park, largely because their offense has been shut down. Tim Lincecum threw seven scoreless innings Monday, Barry Zito tossed six more Tuesday and Matt Cain didn't allow an earned run until the seventh inning Wednesday.

Houston is hitting .196 as a team, hasn't hit a home run and has drawn only two walks in 105 plate appearances. But Myers, who gave up a career-high 12 hits in his first start with the Astros on Wednesday, has a message.

"It's only three games," he said. "Of course, it's magnified, because it is the start of the season. We could shoot off seven [wins] in a row and these three games don't mean anything. We're going to get better. We're not going to get any worse, because we're obviously 0-3. The only thing we can look forward to is just coming out Friday and playing the game the right way like we've been doing and try to keep battling."

All three Giants starters were around the plate and throwing strikes, and the Astros were aggressive and swinging early in the counts. Once San Francisco got the lead in each game and the goose eggs on the scoreboard mounted for Houston, the batters began to press.

The Astros didn't score until the ninth inning Monday, got shut out on Tuesday and finally got off the floor offensively Wednesday to score three in the seventh to tie the Giants at 4. But the bullpen gave up six runs in the final two innings to erase any good vibrations and send Houston to its second 0-3 start in four seasons.

"Nobody on our team is panicking, I promise you that," said Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn.

The starting pitching and fielding have been generally solid (until the final two innings Wednesday), but the offense has done little right outside of Wednesday's three-run rally, and no starting position player is hitting higher than .250. Right-fielder Hunter Pence is 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, Bourn and left fielder Carlos Lee are 2-for-12, infielder Geoff Blum is 2-for-9, second baseman Kaz Matsui and third baseman Pedro Feliz are hitting .250 and catcher J.R. Towles is 1-for-8.

"We've faced some good pitching, but we're a Major League team," Blum said. "We know how to get prepared for these guys, we know how to have good at-bats. As much as you want to give them credit, some of the responsibility comes back to us having some good at-bats and putting pressure on those guys.

"We have a lot to learn from [the Giant series], and hopefully we can move on and use that knowledge to get us deeper into some of these series."

On the surface, it seems as if things aren't going to get any easier for the Astros. They open a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday at Minute Maid Park and will face Roy Halladay in Sunday's series finale. Then it's off to St. Louis, where the division-rival Cardinals dominated the Astros last year.

"We're going to get our resolve tested early on, but we have a good enough team in here and good enough attitude that we can overcome these types of things," Blum said.

The Astros hope to get slugger Lance Berkman sometime during the St. Louis series next week. He started the season on the disabled list after having arthroscopic knee surgery in March and is getting closer to making his season debut. Even though Berkman had a down season last year, his impact in the lineup is huge.

Houston was one game out of first place when he went on the DL on July 22 last year with a strained calf and seven games out when he returned Aug. 12. The Astros have had a history of bad starts -- and overcoming them in 2004 and '05 to make the playoffs -- but first-year manager Brad Mills insists it's way too early to put any labels on his team.

"I'm not going use a cliché and say, 'One game at a time,' but we have to focus on what's right in front us right now," Mills said. "Yeah, we saw [the Phillies] in Spring Training and you look at the type of ballclub and pitching they have, but if you look at the whole thing, we've got to pick out bits and pieces and start building on those things."

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