Harrell's solid start not enough in loss

Harrell's solid start not enough in loss

Harrell's solid start not enough in loss
PHILADELPHIA -- As Astros starter Lucas Harrell entered the visitor's dugout at Citizens Bank Park, he was visibly frustrated. Despite his strong outing, the Astros fell, 5-1, to the Phillies on Monday night.

Maybe the frustration was justified. Maybe his anger was a valid expression after the Astros caught several bad breaks over the course of the fifth and sixth innings. Maybe the rain, which picked up in the fifth and sixth innings, played a part.

"I'm out there competing trying to win for these guys," Harrell said. "These guys are fighting for me. We're scratching through games right now. I just have some frustration built up."

"He's a competitor," manager Brad Mills said. "I didn't see it but I know he's a competitor and is fighting to win every time out."

Harrell worked 5 2/3 innings in which he allowed three runs, two earned, as the Astros offense struggled with Joe Blanton, who allowed one run on six hits over seven-plus innings of work.

"I had a good changeup tonight," said Blanton, who improved to 4-3 with a 2.96 ERA. "That's one of the first times this year it's really come through for me. It didn't start out great, but as the game went on it got better and better. It was really a huge pitch for me tonight."

"[Blanton] threw the ball well tonight," Mills said. "It seemed like he was able to throw the breaking ball when he wanted too, and he was spotting his fastball. When you have the ability to do that, you're going to have a good night and win a game.

"But Luke pitched great. Through the first four innings he gave up only one hit. He did a real good job and we couldn't get anything off of Blanton to ease him into it. He pitched great and did everything he could to keep us there."

Harrell entered the fifth having faced just one batter above the minimum after he allowed just one hit and a walk. With the rain intensifying, Harrell hit Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz with a pitch to lead off the inning. Placido Polanco reached on a fielder's choice and that's when things got dicey.

John Mayberry Jr. hit a ground ball up the middle that at first appeared to be a double play, but Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie struggled to get the ball out of his glove which set up a first and second with one out. Freddy Galvis followed with a single into center to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

"That's the best I've thrown the ball all year," said Harrell, who entered the game having allowed 15 runs in his last 21 2/3 innings of work. "They only hit two balls hard."

Both of which came in the sixth, as Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino led off with a triple to dead center over the head of Jordan Schafer. With one out, Ruiz singled into left-center field for a 2-0 lead.

"That ball and the one I left down and in to Mayberry after it," Harrell said. "Besides that I felt like I threw the ball great. I had control, I was hitting my locations.

Polanco reached on a fielder's choice and Mayberry doubled to put runners at second and third to end Harrell's night. Mills decided to have reliever Wilton Lopez pitch to Galvis, who for the second time on the night came through with an RBI single that gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

"In that situation, I felt like I would walk Galvis and then get to go after Blanton," Harrell said. "It just didn't work out that way."

Compounding matters was an Astros offense that has now scored just 17 runs in its last seven games, a stretch in which they've gone 2-5 and lost three straight heading into Tuesday's series finale against the Phillies.

"We're getting back to earlier in the year where we talked about runners in scoring position," said Mills, whose team went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Monday. "Now, we want to get a few more runners on to get that going. To get momentum, that's the situation we're in. Getting runners on, walking more and getting some more hits."

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