Astros unable to make adjustments in San Diego

Astros unable to make adjustments in San Diego

Astros unable to make adjustments in San Diego
SAN DIEGO -- The Astros' offense was already struggling before the team traded away Carlos Lee, who wasn't the power threat he used to be but was still a steady hitter who didn't strike out. Take away shortstop Jed Lowrie, who's out four to six weeks with a leg injury, and things really begin to get thin.

Houston was held to six hits -- only one of which came after the third inning -- in Tuesday night's 8-2 loss to the Padres at Petco Park, further signaling the kinds of offensive doldrums the Astros find themselves mired in these days.

The Astros are hitting just .194 as a team in the past 17 games, during which they've gone 3-14 and fallen into last place in the National League Central. Even Ross Ohlendorf, who came into the game with a 7.41 ERA, was made to look like a top-of-the-rotation starter.

"Losing proven guys like [Lee and Lowrie] is tough," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "The younger guys have to take it upon ourselves to do it now. I think we'll be all right. We're kind of new to all this and hopefully we can learn as we go and make contributions."

The loss was the Astros' 14th in their past 16 games, and they dropped to 10-36 away from home with five more games remaining on their final West Coast road trip of 2012. They've scored two runs in four consecutive games and nine total runs in five games since the All-Star break.

"We had some guys on base, too," Johnson said. "It's frustrating when you can't capitalize on getting guys on base and doing damage. We've got to figure out when we do get guys on base to drive them in, go for the jugular sometimes."

In his first start since the All-Star break, Astros pitcher Jordan Lyles gave up 11 hits -- nine singles -- and five runs in six innings and still can't quite catch a wave of momentum despite showing glimpses in the first half of the season of turning the corner in his young career.

A clearly frustrated Lyles was a man of few words after falling to 2-6 this season.

"Just have to take each outing like it's a new one and put everything behind you and stay a little bit more consistent," he said.

Ohlendorf, meanwhile, recorded easily his best start of the season by holding the punchless Astros to six hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings. He struck out six batters, and three Padres relievers combined to whiff six more for a total of 12.

"The tough thing is that we weren't able to have very many baserunners after the third inning," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We had one hit and one other baserunner and we've got to start making better adjustments. That's what we want to do is make those adjustments as the game goes deeper."

The Astros scratched and clawed to score a run in the second inning when Jordan Schafer reached on a bunt single, went to second on a throwing error by Ohlendorf, stole third base and scored on a ground ball off the bat of Carlos Corporan.

The Padres took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on a homer by Yonder Alonso, but the Astros tied in the third when J.D. Martinez (2-for-4) drove in Marwin Gonzalez (3-for-4) with a single. Lyles got his pitch count up in the fourth when he walked two batters and gave up an infield single after two outs, though he escaped the inning.

"I probably wasted 20 or so pitches after I got two outs," he said. "I threw a lot of pitches tonight."

Still, the game remained tied at 2 until the fifth, when the Padres bashed four consecutive one-out hits, including RBI hits by Chase Headley and Yasmani Grandal that put San Diego ahead, 4-2. The Padres scored three times in the seventh against Fernando Abad to stretch the lead to 8-2.

"It has been a rough couple of weeks," Mills said. "The thing is really making adjustments. If we see teams making adjustments to us during the game, we need to make them right back."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.