'Pen sharp, but Astros can't pick up Galarraga

'Pen sharp, but Astros can't pick up Galarraga

'Pen sharp, but Astros can't pick up Galarraga
ATLANTA -- Making his second start of the season, right-hander Armando Galarraga battled through a bout of wildness to keep the Astros in Friday night's series opener against the Braves. But, in the end, it wasn't quite enough as Houston fell, 4-1, in front of 28,300 at Turner Field.

The loss extended the Astros' losing streak to four games. They are 2-19 since the All-Star break.

Though Galarraga struggled with his command, walking seven batters and hitting another in 5 1/3 innings, his start had flashes of promise. He struck out four batters and showed an ability to limit the damage his wildness kept causing.

Galarraga said his lack of control was a result of being unable to throw his changeup and sinker for strikes.

"I kept trying to adjust to bring it for a strike, so I was kind of fighting with my changeup and sinker the whole game," Galarraga said. "I just had to deal with them in the moment."

Galarraga quickly got himself into trouble in the first inning. He allowed two walks and a stolen base to start the game, but was able to escape the inning unscathed. Galarraga needed 33 pitches to get through the inning, however, quickly elevating his pitch count.

"Galarraga really got his pitch count up by being behind in the count and all the walks," manager Brad Mills said. "But, you know, for the most part, he seemed to pitch around them."

Galarraga was unable to perform another escape act in the third inning. After retiring Michael Bourn to start the inning, Galarraga gave up a double to Martin Prado and walked Jason Heyward. Chipper Jones followed with a two-run double to right field, giving the Braves all the offense they would need. Jones scored three batters later when shortstop Marwin Gonzalez couldn't catch Dan Uggla's popup in short left field.

Mills said Gonzalez lost the ball when it got above the lights, and didn't see it again until it was too late.

"He stuck out his arms because he was asking them for help, and [second baseman Jose Altuve] didn't see it either," Mills said. "He didn't see it until it got back down into the lights, which was a little bit late."

Galarraga also had a brief tiff with Prado in the sixth inning. He and Prado exchanged words and began to approach each other before umpires and catcher Carlos Corporan intervened. Prado eventually drew a walk, which ended Galarraga's night.

After the game, Galarraga and Prado both said the incident was a misunderstanding. Galarraga motioned to Corporan to go through the signs again and Prado thought it was directed at him.

"It was a misunderstanding," Galarraga said. "He thought I was telling something to him, and I was talking to Corporan, 'I can't see the signs.' And he thought I was talking to him."

In all, the Braves stranded nine runners Galarraga allowed to reach base. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said they were fortunate not to have the missed opportunities cost them the game.

"He wiggled out of a few jams himself," Gonzalez said. "We could have used a couple more runs, but didn't get them."

While the Astros kept the game close, they were unable to get anything going against Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, who spread four hits across 7 1/3 innings and didn't allow any multi-hit innings.

The lone run for the Astros came in the sixth inning. Ben Francisco led off with an infield single and advanced to second when Uggla's throw went wide of first base and into the Braves' dugout. Francisco moved to third on Brett Wallace's groundout to second base, and he scored on J.D. Martinez's groundout to third base.

The Astros' bullpen, subject to its share of struggles during the team's slide, combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Mickey Storey followed Wesley Wright's 1 1/3 scoreless innings, making his Major League debut with two outs in the seventh. Storey retired the only two batters he faced.

"It was neat to see Mickey Storey come through with two-thirds of an inning for his Major League debut," Mills said.

Mills said he thought the bullpen benefited from the team's off-day Thursday, which was their first since the All-Star break.

"They really did a good job, and we'll go on from there," Mills said. "But it was nice to see that out of the bullpen today."

Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.