Happ drives in 2, gets win in Astros' victory
Houston manager Brad Mills wants his players to focus on each game individually and not dwell on the mistakes they've made in past losses.
The Astros seemed to follow that advice in a 7-1 victory over Florida on Sunday, hardly resembling a team that dropped seven of its first eight.
J.A. Happ pitched four-hit ball into the eighth inning and drove in two runs with a double, and the Astros tallied a season-high 16 hits, six for extra bases.
Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Matt Downs also knocked in runs for Houston. Pence and Angel Sanchez had three hits apiece.
''A real good team win,'' Mills said. ''What a pitching performance, and then everybody in the starting lineup getting a hit. That's pretty special, when you're able to put together an attack like that, that's balanced.''
Happ (1-1) allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings, only two after the Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He put Houston ahead to stay in the fourth with a two-run double off Florida starter Anibal Sanchez (0-1).
Sanchez came in with a 1.54 ERA in two prior starts at Minute Maid Park, but gave up six runs on 13 hits in 4 2-3 innings. He lost for the first time in six career starts against the Astros.
Happ threw 117 pitches and looked strong after straining an oblique muscle in late March. He was shaky in his season debut in Cincinnati last week, giving up seven runs in four innings, but came into Sunday's game with a more confident mindset.
''I was trying to get ahead of hitters and pitch aggressively, and almost not even try to throw strikes,'' Happ said. ''More or less just have some conviction with what I'm throwing and be aggressive with it. Everything was better in the zone.''
Still, Happ got into immediate trouble, when Omar Infante doubled to the left-field corner in the first inning, and scored on Logan Morrison's single.
''That's something I need to work on,'' Happ said. ''Sometimes, I start a little slow. I need to get going, find a way to do that.''
Michael Bourn blooped a double down the left-field line in the bottom half of the first. Morrison couldn't make a sliding catch and came up limping. Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez trotted out to check on him, but Morrison stayed in the game.
Pence singled to left to tie it, his third RBI of the series.
Brett Wallace led off the Astros' fourth with an infield single and went to third on Humberto Quintero's two-out double to right. Happ then drove a hard grounder down the left-field line, his second hit of the game, to make it 3-1.
The Astros' five starting pitchers are hitting .411 (7 for 17) so far this season. Happ is 2 for 3 after going hitless in 26 at-bats last season.
''Anything is better than last year,'' he said. ''Off to a good start.''
Angel Sanchez and Pence started the Astros' half of the fifth with singles. Sanchez scored on Lee's single to right, Houston's 11th hit. Pence scored for a 5-1 lead when Wallace grounded into a double play.
Bill Hall then tripled and scored on Downs' double to nearly the same spot in right center. Brian Sanches relieved Anibal Sanchez.
''Everything was working good, but nothing happened right,'' Anibal Sanchez said. ''They took a lot of swings and made a lot of contact. Nothing good was happening. All the hits were good pitches.''
Happ needed only 11 pitches to retire the Marlins in order in the sixth. He reached 100 pitches in the seventh, getting Donnie Murphy on a harmless flyout to end the inning.
''Happ had his paintbrush out,'' Morrison said. ''He was doing pretty well, mixing up speeds. He kept us off-balance.''
Plate umpire Jim Joyce ejected Florida reliever Edward Mujica in the seventh, when he hit Hall with a pitch. Hall scored on Quintero's drive off the right-field fence, but Quintero was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple.
Joyce ejected Astros' reliever Aneury Rodriguez in the ninth when he hit Gaby Sanchez with a pitch. Mills protested, to no avail. Jeff Fulchino got the final three outs for the Astros.
NOTES: Edwin Rodriguez is ''very optimistic'' that injured SS Hanley Ramirez will start Tuesday's game in Atlanta after the team's off day on Monday. Ramirez sustained a bruised left shin on Hall's takeout slide in the seventh inning of Friday's game. ''He's a little sore, but he's doing fine,'' Rodriguez said. ... Struggling Astros 3B Chris Johnson was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, replaced by Downs. Johnson was 1 for 8 in the first two games of the Florida series, and hitting .200 so far this year. Mills said Johnson will be back in the lineup for Monday's game against Chicago.