Astros see win streak ended at four

Astros see win streak ended at four

HOUSTON -- Astros left fielder Carlos Lee fell squarely on the sword Thursday night, taking responsibility for the three runs the Marlins pushed across in the first inning -- three runs Houston couldn't overcome to keep its winning streak alive.

Lee's early fielding error certainly was an early kick in the gut for the Astros, but they didn't do much offensively to help their cause, either.

Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez held Houston to one run on nine singles over 6 2/3 innings to snap the Astros' season-long four-game winning streak and avoid a sweep of the three-game series with a 5-1 win over Houston at Minute Maid Park.

"You can't carry your mistakes around," said Lee, who went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .136. "[It's] the same way when you strike out with the bases loaded in the first inning, because you'll probably have another chance if you don't screw it up again. I look at it the same way."

The Marlins scored three runs in the first inning against Astros starter Felipe Paulino, two of which were unearned thanks to Lee's error. Houston has been outscored, 12-3, in first innings this year.

With runners at first and second and one out, Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu hit a sharp single to left field to extend his hitting streak to 20 games. Florida third-base coach Joe Espada put up his hands to hold Chris Coghlan at third base, but the ball skimmed off Lee's glove and rolled away.

Coghlan, after briefly stopping, wound up scoring, as did Hanley Ramirez, who came all the way around from first base. Cantu wound up scoring on a groundout by Dan Uggla, giving the Marlins a 3-0 lead.

"I was just charging, and I made a mistake to try to peek at the third-base coach to see what I was going to do before I got the ball, and I made a mistake there," Lee said. "I screwed that play up and cost us three runs.

"In no way was he going to send him, because that ball got to me pretty quick, but I made a mistake and took my eyes off the ball to see what the coach was going to do. You can't do that. It's pretty tough just to catch it when your eyes are on the ball. You take them off, it's tough. It's a situation you can't do anything about it. It happens, and hopefully it won't happen again."

Paulino (0-2) shook off the error to retire 13 of the next 15 batters he faced, but suffered his second loss of the season despite pitching pretty well. He gave up six hits and five runs (two earned), walked three and struck out four batters in 5 2/3 innings.

"I had a bad inning the first inning, but after that I made my adjustments," Paulino said. "Mentally, I feel great, and I tried to do the best I can. Nothing is coming my way for me right now, but I hope some time this season everything changes for me."

Astros manager Brad Mills said after the game he never got a good look at Lee's error.

"It did cost us a run that inning," he said. "Going down three instead of two was huge. You ask me specifically about the error, I haven't had a chance to take a look at it. When the ball was hit, I was looking more at the runners than how he was going to field the ball and how our ballclub was moving and everything else."

Sanchez (1-1) carried a shutout into the seventh inning before the Astros rallied for a run on a single to left field by Michael Bourn that scored catcher Humberto Quintero. Houston stranded eight runners on base and was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Three of the Astros' hits came with two outs and nobody on.

"You're going to have games like this where a guy comes out and has control of his stuff," said shortstop Tommy Manzella, who went 1-for-3. "He kind of makes it hard on you to put a bunch of good at-bats together, but to stack base hits together is kind of tough when a guy is on like he was today. We'll just come out tomorrow and we'll get back at it."

The Marlins took advantage of a fielding error by third baseman Geoff Blum and a fading Paulino to score two runs in the sixth to take a 5-0 lead. The big blow was a Cody Ross two-run single with the bases loaded.

"[Paulino] was throwing the ball really well," Mills said. "He hit the batter [to start the sixth inning], and then we threw him and out and then we had the error. It sure would have been nice had he had two outs and nobody on and then worked from there, but that didn't happen."

Bourn and first baseman Lance Berkman had two hits each, but Lee's 0-for-4 in the middle of the order stood out. The burly left-fielder believes he's close to breaking out at the plate, which would be a good thing considering how costly his defense was Thursday.

"I'm feeling really good right now," he said. "How it [improved] the first two weeks to now, I feel I'm in really good position to hit. I'm making good contact, but unfortunately, the swing is not at that level yet. It's coming around and I hit some balls hard

"The guy today [Sanchez] was pretty good. I don't take anything away from that guy today. He was hitting the corners and keeping everybody off-balance. He pitched good. Sometimes the pitchers are going to do the job and you don't have much chance to do anything."

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