Happ leads way in Astros' shutout of Padres

Happ leads way in Astros' shutout of Padres

Happ leads way in Astros' shutout of Padres
SAN DIEGO -- The Astros played Monday night with the kind of energy and passion you might expect from a team that hadn't won a road game in more than a month. Simply put, they were sick of losing away from home and were determined to do something about that.

That determination was set on the mound, where J.A. Happ pitched with conviction and delivered one of his best starts of the season. He was backed up some terrific defense on the infield, as well as a bullpen that bailed him out in the seventh and slammed the door in the eighth and ninth.

So who cares that the Astros left a season-high-tying 13 runners on base and were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position? They did just enough at Petco Park to snap their 13-game road losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Padres, and that's all that mattered.

"I don't know if it was weighing on us, but we don't want to lose period," said first baseman Scott Moore, who drove in the only two runs on sacrifice flies in the first and third innings. "The energy tonight was good. The guys were really positive, really into the game."

The Astros won on the road for the first time since June 14 at San Francisco, the day after Matt Cain threw a perfect game against them. Houston is 10-35 on the road this season and by winning Monday avoided tying the franchise record for consecutive road losses.

"Everybody's been talking about what's been going on, on the road and so forth, but we just needed to play good baseball and we did," Astros manager Brad Mills said.

Happ (7-9) snapped his personal two-game losing streak by allowing four hits, one walk and striking out four in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. It's the first time Happ has thrown at least 6 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run since he tossed seven scoreless last Aug. 31 against the Pirates.

Relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, Wilton Lopez tossed a scoreless eighth and Brett Myers -- who blew a save against the Padres on June 28 -- got his 19th save in 21 chances.

"We've still got six more go to [on the road trip], but I'm just glad we won one on the road right now," Myers said. "Happ threw the ball great. He was down in the zone and that's the best I've seen him throw in a while. The bullpen did a good job getting out of some jams. That's what you're supposed to do to win ballgames."

The game was a head-scratcher from a statistical point of view, and it had nothing to do with the three hours, 21 minutes it took to play a 2-0 game. Houston managed only five hits, but stole a season-high five bases, tied a season high by drawing nine walks -- three by Chris Johnson -- and stranded a bushel of runners on base.

"We had nine walks and left a lot of guys on, but the guys were battling and played good, solid defense," Mills said.

Happ, who gave up seven runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings in his final outing prior to the All-Star break, kept the ball low in the strike zone and watched the Padres struggle to square up any balls.

"I think he had good command of the fastball," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Down and away he did a nice job with the fastball. He threw some changeups behind in the count, some 1-0 changeups, a couple first-pitch changeups, we were out in front. That got him some outs early in the count, kept his pitch count down, kept him fresher as he went on."

Happ was yanked from the game after only 89 pitches when Jesus Guzman doubled with one out in the seventh and Logan Forsythe walked. Mills summoned Rodriguez, who had stranded 21 of 25 inherited runners this season.

"It was very tough," Mills said. "[Happ's] command, to me, seemed to be going and I didn't want him to get behind the next hitter and happen to lay a ball in there and all of sudden he loses this with our guys in the bullpen."

Rodriguez raised the tension in the Astros dugout by walking Cameron Maybin to load the bases with one out.

"I get more nervous watching situations like that than when I'm out there throwing," Happ said.

Rodriguez, who has struggled this season when he comes in to start an inning, came back to strike out Everth Cabrera swinging and got pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso to fly out to center field to strand all three runners and preserve the win for Happ.

"You're always thinking, 'This is crunch time,'" Rodriguez said. "This is the time you have to go after these guys and get these outs."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.