CHICAGO, Illinois -- The Astros had an all around bad day Sunday, excelling in none of the only three categories that matter: pitching, offense and defense.
But it was the offense that had manager Phil Garner in a foul mood. The Astros dropped a 6-3 decision to the White Sox and were able to do very little against left-hander Mark Buehrle, who held Houston to one run over eight innings en route to his 100th career win.
"I think we helped him out a lot, too," Garner said. "We just don't swing the bats. We've been in a season-long slump. We're just not swinging the bats like we can. We didn't have but a couple of balls hit good today, and one of them came from a left-hander. We just don't strike the ball."
For eight innings, Mike Lamb's solo homer off Buehrle represented Houston's only run. The Astros threatened with two in the ninth, but credit the White Sox bullpen's temporary inability to throw strikes, not the crafty Houston offense.
Dewon Day issued walks to Mark Loretta and Morgan Ensberg and was replaced by Boone Logan, who walked Lamb to load the bases with one out. That forced White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to call for his closer, Bobby Jenks, who, while facing Brad Ausmus, threw a wild pitch, allowing one run to score.
Jenks fell behind Ausmus, 2-1, before coaxing a groundout. Ensberg scored, cutting the White Sox lead in half. Luke Scott, pinch-hitting for Adam Everett, struck out looking, ending the game.
"I'm more frustrated by our hitting, more than anything," Garner said. "Good gracious alive, we're just not hitting. Plain and simple, we're just not hitting. And then we rallied in the ninth inning and didn't get a hit. Three walks, a wild pitch and we hadn't put a ball in play. Well, Brad put a ball in play. It's just unbelievable."
Hunter Pence, deemed available to play prior to the start of the game, had his bat in hand in the dugout, but Garner went with Scott, who's also nursing a nagging hip injury. Garner liked the lefty-righty matchup, hoping Scott would homer.
"I want him to jack one out of the ballpark and then [Craig] Biggio's going to get a hit, steal a base and maybe we've got a chance," Garner said. "That's our only hope. We're grasping for straws."
Wandy Rodriguez's performance didn't help the cause, either. Most times, solo homers do not lead to the downfall of a starting pitcher, unless, of course, he gives up enough of them. Rodriguez yielded three solo homers in five innings of work.
He gave up solo shots to Paul Konerko in the fourth and Luis Terrero and Juan Uribe in the fifth.
"In the fifth inning, I threw too many pitches in the zone," Rodriguez said. "That's what happened -- the home runs were because of that."
The outing was especially disappointing considering the left-hander was hoping to build on an encouraging start in Colorado last Tuesday, when he yielded one run over five frames.
"I thought today, I'd go seven innings," Rodriguez said. "But I threw too many pitches (28) in the fifth. I was thinking to go deep in the game, not short."
Said Garner: "I don't think he's locating as well as he can. I thought he made a bunch of good pitches on the inside half of the plate today, that we didn't get the calls on, and that, of course, forces you back out over the plate. That's where he got hurt today."
The defensive effort was poor as well. The Astros made three errors, and Carlos Lee appeared to misplay an Andy Gonzalez double that bounced off the wall and scored Tadahito Iguchi.
Garner refused to take solace in the fact that the Astros won the series after beating the White Sox in the first two games.
"We're in a rotten position right now," he said. "We've got to [put together] win streaks. If we win two out of three for the rest of the year we'll be in good shape. But we have to put together a good streak. We just can't have momentum like the last couple of days just drift away."
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