Astros fall to D-backs in DeFrancesco's debut

Astros fall to D-backs in DeFrancesco's debut

Astros fall to D-backs in DeFrancesco's debut
HOUSTON -- It didn't take interim Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco very long on Sunday afternoon to experience the same kinds of frustrations his predecessor had to deal with on a nearly daily basis at the helm of a young club.

DeFrancesco was barely three innings into his Major League managerial career when he had to make his first pitching change, and he was left to lament numerous missed scoring chances after the D-backs finished off a three-game sweep of the Astros with an 8-1 win at Minute Maid Park.

The loss did little to ruin the day for DeFrancesco, who was named as the interim replacement for Brad Mills earlier in the day. The veteran Minor League skipper found out late Saturday he was finally going to manage in the Major Leagues, and he boarded a plane for Houston early Sunday.

"Unfortunately, it didn't work out the way I wanted it, but it was an honor to put the Astros uniform on and be part of the organization," he said. "It's been a blur. It went pretty quick from last night until today, this morning. When the game started I was in my own place out there. That's where I belong."

Armando Galarraga, who made 10 starts for DeFrancesco in Oklahoma City earlier this year, lost his fourth consecutive start after allowing five runs in the fourth inning to allow the D-backs to sweep the season series, outscoring the Astros 56-19 in their final matchups as National League rivals.

"The first three innings, he pitched pretty good," DeFrancesco said. "He had his good split going, got ahead in the count and made some pitches. That fourth inning is the big inning in baseball -- it doesn't matter what level -- it always shows up. A couple of walks, couple of big hits, get you in trouble."

The Astros mustered an offensive effort that was all too familiar for those who have been around the team for most of the season against Arizona starter Ian Kennedy. They were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base.

"I'm kind of disappointed in the at-bats," DeFrancesco said. "Kennedy really threw the ball well today and elevated his fastball and we didn't make some adjustments after that. We were 1-for-11 with guys in scoring position, also, so these are things I'm sure you've seen before and we're trying to make adjustments, trying to get the right people out on the field. "

Kennedy (11-10) held Houston to five hits and one run and overcame five walks in six innings of work. He's 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two career starts against Houston.

"That's what I really take pride in -- not walking too many guys," Kennedy said. "Thankfully, we hit well today. I put a lot of hitters in hitters' counts and just luckily got out of it."

It wasn't the kind of performance DeFrancesco will tolerate. In a meeting with the team prior to the game, he stressed that he wanted the players to pitch with passion and energy and play smart. The message resonated with the players.

"I think we kind of needed a little bit of a wake-up call, and it struck home with a lot of the guys," said catcher Jason Castro, who went 2-for-4 and drove in the only Astros' run of the game. "We couldn't put it together today, but we're headed on the right track and guys are going to respond well to his enthusiasm."

DeFrancesco was asked after the game why two-hole hitter Scott Moore bunted after Jose Altuve led off the first with a walk, and he said Moore bunted on his own and he'd rather have him swing away and try to drive a ball down the right-field line.

"It's going to be a challenge, but it's up to the players," DeFrancesco said. "We're going to keep pushing, we're going to keep working and we're going to execute. It was a fundamentally sound game. The plays were made and the defense was decent."

Galarraga (0-4) breezed through three innings by retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced before Aaron Hill led off the fourth with the first of his two homers. The inning quickly went awry as Jason Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt followed with singles. A one-out single by Chris Young scored Kubel, and consecutive walks forced in another run.

Galarraga was pulled after Kennedy made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly and Gerardo Parra -- the ninth batter in the inning -- doubled in another run.

"His strength is to get ahead and use his split and his slider to get outs," DeFrancesco said. "There was some splits that were up in the zone that didn't get hit hard, but they were hit for big hits. When you walk a couple of guys in a row, the big hits are going to come, and they have good enough guys over there to drive the baseball."

Brian McTaggart is a 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.