HOUSTON (AP) - The Astros got the job done offensively against the San Diego Padres Sunday. Defense was another story.
The Astros let a quality outing by Brett Myers and a three-run lead fall by the wayside, making three errors and giving up three unearned runs in the seventh and eighth innings while losing 8-6 to San Diego at Minute Maid Park.
``We've played so well defensively so far ... and so to see that fall apart and to allow those three unearned runs, that's something we haven't been doing,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``That was tough.'
Will Venable hit a two-run single in a four-run eighth inning - which included a fielding error by Astros shortstop Angel Sanchez - that gave the Padres the victory over the Astros and a split of the four-game series.
Myers (1-0) extended his string of pitching at least six innings to 36 of his last 37 starts. He allowed a solo homer to Nick Hundley in the second and a two-run shot to Jorge Cantu in the fifth but left after six innings with a 6-3 lead.
``Brett battled so well the whole way through,' Mills said. ``He left with a chance to win the thing.'
Myers third consecutive solid start came despite what Myers described as an awkward day.
``I didn't feel normal out there today,' said Myers, who allowed eight hits and two walks while striking out five. ``Mechanically, mentally, everything. I was kind of all over the place; I was focusing on trying to hit my spots and everything, but (the ball) just wasn't going where my mind told it to go, my body told it to go somewhere else.'
The collapse, which began in the seventh with a two-error sequence by left-handed reliever Fernando Abad that later yielded a run, spoiled the Astros' attempt at winning their first series of the season.
Facing Venable to start his outing, Abad botched a routine out at first base by failing to secure a softly-hit grounder.
Abad then compounded the miscue by throwing the ball past first baseman Carlos Lee, allowing Venable to reach third base. Venable scored on a sacrifice fly on the next at-bat to make it 6-4 Astros.
Still trailing by two to start of the eighth, the Padres got a run on Jason Bartlett's one-out RBI single. Pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe walked to load the bases prior then Venable singled to right field for the go-ahead hit off Mark Melancon (1-1).
Jeff Fulchino came on and walked pinch-hitter Orlando Hudson to load the bases again and Cantu walked to force in the fourth run of the inning.
``That run in the seventh and of course the four in the (eighth) hurt badly,' Mills said.
Ernesto Friero (1-1) pitched 1 2-3 innings for the victory. He struck out three and allowed one hit.
Heath Bell got his 38th consecutive save the hard way. He loaded the bases with one out in the ninth and then got the last two batters on a strikeout and groundout.
Jason Michaels singled off Bell to start the Astros' ninth. Chris Johnson struck out and Brett Wallace walked. Humberto Quintero hit a long fly to Venable, the right fielder, who missed the ball for an error loading the bases. Matt Downs struck out of a full count and Jason Bourgeois grounded out to end the game.
San Diego's Clayton Richard pitched 5 1-3 innings, and allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out five.
Hundley led off the second inning with a first-pitch home run, his third of the season. Myers then struck out Ryan Ludwick and Cameron Maybin tripled over center fielder Bourgeois' head.
Maybin was caught in a rundown on a grounder by Bartlett and Myers struck out Richard to keep it a one-run game.
Bill Hall, hitless in his previous 10 at_bats, gave the Astros the lead with a two-run single in the second. Michaels walked and Johnson doubled before Hall singled down the first base line. He was caught trying to take second.
Houston got two more runs in the third on an RBI double by Hunter Pence and Lee's RBI single. Cantu's two-run homer in the fifth continued his success against Myers. Cantu is hitting .450 for his career against Myers.
``Everybody's trying to make every play they can,' Wallace said. ``You can't do that, and at the end of the day you just have to try to overcome them. We came up a little bit short, but hopefully we'll learn from it and keep going.'
NOTES: Hudson's 11-game hitting streak ended Saturday night but he still has reached base in all 15 games this season. He was 0 for 3 Saturday with a walk. He is 6 for 6 on stolen bases this season. ... Brad Hawpe has the second best batting average against Houston among active players (50 for 145, .345.)
The Associated Press News Service
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