Ball doesn't bounce Astros' way in loss

Ball doesn't bounce Astros' way in loss

HOUSTON -- With the exception of a slight fourth-inning hiccup, Astros' pitchers largely stymied the Dodgers' bats on Saturday. Then, a soft pair of sacrifice bunt attempts caused it all to unravel, leading to a 6-3 defeat in front of 39,237 fans at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros misplayed consecutive ninth-inning bunts from Reed Johnson and A.J. Ellis and had a controversial call from an umpire go against them, breaking a 3-3 tie and sending Houston to its second loss in a row. It's the first time since Aug. 21 that the Astros (67-75) suffered back-to-back defeats.

After Brandon Lyon walked the leadoff batter in the ninth inning, Johnson trickled a sacrifice bunt toward Brett Wallace down the first-base line. The ball appeared to be rolling foul, prompting the first baseman to grab and casually hold the ball. But the umpires ruled the ball was still touching the line when Wallace snatched it, and Johnson reached first to put two on with none out.

"It was really close," Wallace said. "I felt like it was just rolling foul, so I tried to grab it [in foul territory]. The umpire said it was just on the line. It's one of those bang-bang calls you have to make pretty quick, and I thought the best move was to try and let it go [foul]."

Manager Brad Mills came onto the field to argue, but to no avail.

"I asked to get some help, but the other umpire said it was on the line as well," Mills said. "We'll talk about it. I haven't looked at a replay yet."

From there, Ellis dropped a bunt between the pitcher's mound and third base, in an effort to sacrifice the runners to second and third. But third baseman Geoff Blum didn't charge the ball, forcing Lyon to make the play. Lyon's errant throw to Wallace skipped into the right-field corner, allowing both runners to score and Ellis to reach third base.

"Blum hasn't been out there in a while," Mills said. "CJ [Chris Johnson] has taken over there the past three or four months."

Johnson sat out Saturday's game after tweaking his back, but Mills said he could return to the lineup on Sunday.

Though Wallace had a role in the Astros' ninth-inning mishaps, his bat kept the Astros in the game. After starter Wandy Rodriguez (11-12) gave up three fourth-inning runs, the Astros quickly rallied to tie things up.

Houston got one run back in the fourth when Michael Bourn tripled and scored on Jeff Keppinger's single. Then, Wallace led off the bottom of the fifth by crushing a high fastball from Los Angeles starter John Ely over the right-field bullpen, trimming the lead to 3-2. It was Wallace's second home run this week after playing more than a month in the Majors without one.

"I was just trying to be aggressive, put the bat on it and get a pitch I could hit," Wallace said. "I feel good out there. I'm getting back to my game plan."

Angel Sanchez and Jason Castro followed Wallace's blast with singles, and two batters later, Sanchez scored on Bourn's groundout to tie it at 3. Things remained that way until the ninth.

Rodriguez settled in after a rocky fourth inning that included a Crawford Box home run from Casey Blake. Only two batters subsequently reached base against the left-hander in a start that spanned seven innings and included 10 strikeouts.

"I was using my breaking ball tonight," Rodriguez said. "[In the fourth], I think I hung it and got behind them. It got better."

It was enough to keep the Astros in the game until the ninth, when Lyon gave up three runs -- two earned -- and to snap his 16-inning scoreless string. It had been the second-longest active streak in the National League.

The back-to-back losses are the first for the Astros at Minute Maid Park in more than a month.

Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.