|Houston Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, left, and right fielder Justin Maxwell run into each other while trying to catch a fly ball hit by Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Houston. Braves' Martin Prado scored from first base on the play. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)|
Astros commit 4 errors in 6-3 loss to Braves
HOUSTON—The Houston Astros had a chance to win their second series of this young season.
Instead, too many errors and poor clutch hitting doomed them in the series finale against the Atlanta Braves.
Jason Heyward homered and drove in two runs, David Ross hit a two-run double in his 2012 debut and the Braves beat the Astros 6-3 on Wednesday night.
The Astros started the season 3-1, but lost two straight to the Braves to erase a hot start.
Ross, the backup catcher, drove in Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla with a double to center in the fourth, giving the Braves a 3-1 lead. Heyward, who finished with three hits, added an insurance run with his solo shot to right in the eighth.
The Astros made four errors and have eight fielding miscues on the season. They also made four in a season-opening loss to Colorado last week.
Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (0-1) gave up four runs, three earned, and six hits in five innings. Rodriguez said he missed his location on the double to Ross, and that affected him for the rest of the inning.
"It was 0-2, and I did not want to throw anything too close to the home plate," Rodriguez said. "I went with a changeup, and earlier he missed two changeups in a row. In that situation, I wanted to throw it down in the zone, but it went down the middle."
Atlanta grabbed the lead for good with the big fourth inning. Jones hit a leadoff single and Uggla reached on an error by rookie shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Heyward singled to load the bases and Ross' double drove in two. Jack Wilson's sacrifice scored Heyward to stretch the lead to 4-1.
An error by Rodriguez allowed pitcher Randall Delgado to reach with one out and he walked Martin Prado with two outs. But Rodriguez was able to limit the damage by striking out Freddie Freeman.
"Wandy, he really got frustrated with himself," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We had a good talk after he came out of the game. He really let that 0-2 double to Ross get to him. He let that pitch get to him, and the inning really kind of deteriorated after that."
Down 4-1, the Astros had several chances to get back in the game or take the lead.
They loaded the bases in the fourth and seventh, but got just one run out of those opportunities. They also put runners at first and third with two outs in the ninth before Craig Kimbrel struck out Carlos Lee for his second save.
"Offensively, getting those big hits still seems to be eluding us," Mills said. "But the guys keep battling and coming back. We are giving ourselves the opportunity."
J.D. Martinez homered and drove in two runs for the Astros. Martinez has at least one hit in each of the first six games.
Lee had a single and a walk, but he struck out in the big spot in the ninth inning.
"We played pretty good baseball, and our pitchers kept us in games," Lee said. "Tonight was another tough night; we could not get the big hit, but if we keep putting ourselves in this position, the hits will come."
Delgado (1-0) struck out six in five innings while yielding two runs and five hits.
Atlanta increased its lead to 6-3 when Prado scored on right fielder Justin Maxwell's throwing error in the ninth.
The Astros trimmed the Braves' lead to 4-3 in the seventh, but couldn't come up with a big hit to take control. They loaded the bases with one out, but Eric O'Flaherty got Martinez to fly out to right. Lee walked to force in a run before pinch hitter Matt Downs bounced into a fielder's choice.
NOTES: Braves RHP Tim Hudson, on the disabled list after back surgery, is scheduled to make his second rehabilitation start on Thursday night for Single-A Rome. He allowed one earned run with four hits in three innings in his first start there on Saturday. ... Houston SS Jed Lowrie (sprained right thumb) is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday. ... Both teams are off Thursday before the Braves open their home schedule against Milwaukee and Houston travels to Miami.