Penny sharp, Cards beat winless Astros 2-1
By R.B. FALLSTROM,
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) Another offensive failure left the Houston Astros one loss shy of the worst start in franchise history.
Houston dropped to 0-8 Wednesday night, limited to four hits by Brad Penny and the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night.
The Astros remained the only winless team in the majors, mostly because of their big league-low 14 runs.
A day earlier, manager Brad Mills held a rare, off-day optional workout in an effort to help players relax. It was to no avail, as a lineup sorely missing Lance Berkman scored one or no runs for the fifth time.
“There’s not a guy that’s not trying,” Brett Myers said. “I think some of us might be trying too hard. But it’s part of the game.
“We miss Lance obviously, but guys have got to step up – including myself.”
The Astros lost their first nine games in 1983. They recovered to finish 85-77.
“We’re paid to go out there and hit and catch the ball,” said shortstop Tommy Manzella, whose fielding error allowed the go-ahead run to score in the first. “If I just catch the ball, we might still be playing.”
Penny (1-0) allowed an unearned run on three hits in seven innings. Pujols drove in a run for his major league-leading 15th RBI.
Myers (0-1) struck out seven and gave up only one earned run in seven innings, the longest start the Astros have had this season.
Penny has given up only one earned run in 14 innings with the Cardinals, who signed him to a one-year contract in the offseason as the rotation replacement for Joel Pineiro.
The bullpen failed Penny in his St. Louis debut but came through this time. Dennys Reyes got Kaz Matsui on a bases-loaded groundout to end the eighth and Ryan Franklin worked a perfect ninth against the 3-4-5 hitters for his third save in three chances.
“Guys are trying their best and it didn’t work out a couple of times,” Franklin said. “But Penny, he definitely deserved that for sure.”
Penny was in the clubhouse at the finish icing down his arm and listening to the home radio feed while watching TV, a combination that ramped up the anxiety.
“Whoever’s doing the radio scares me to death,” Penny said. “Every time there’s a fly ball it’s like ‘Way back!'”
Penny struck out four and walked none, requiring 89 pitches and retiring 16 of 17 batters between the first and sixth.
“I didn’t think my stuff was as sharp as the first time in Cincinnati, but I threw strikes, didn’t put anybody on base and we had some great defense,” Penny said. “For me, a lot of times I walk someone, man, it seems like they score.”
Michael Bourn was 2 for 3, his third straight two-hit game for Houston. But cleanup hitter Carlos Lee was 0 for 4 including a double play ball and weak flyout for the second out in the ninth, and is 3 for 31 on the season with no RBIs.
Catcher Yadier Molina’s signature pickoff move backfired in the first inning, helping the Astros take their second lead of the season. Bourn singled to start the game and took second when Molina threw well wide of first base and Pujols’ outstretched glove on the first pitch to Matsui. Bourn advanced on Matsui’s groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.
Molina won his second straight Gold Glove last year, committing only five errors, and led the majors with eight pickoffs. La Russa said he thought Molina was screened by Matsui, a switch-hitter who was batting left-handed.
The Cardinals jumped on Myers with a walk and two hits to start the first, and Pujols’ single tied it. The go-ahead run scored when Manzella misplayed Colby Rasmus’ two-out grounder.
NOTES: Ryan Ludwick was 6 for 9 against Myers after singling in the first, then grounded out and flied out the next two trips. … The Astros have lost 13 of their last 17 at St. Louis. … The Cardinals’ bullpen has stranded all five inherited runners this year.
Updated April 15, 2010