Astros looking for clutch hits

Although the Houston Astros had outscored their opposition by nine runs after Monday's loss to the Brewers, the club sits at just 6-11 on the young season. Manager Brad Mills and his club are looking for a few more clutch hits.

If Monday's Astros game seemed familiar, it's because it was all too familiar to those with the leading roles. Fall behind, come back -- but not all the way back. It's how the Astros have fallen to 6-11 in often heartbreaking fashion.

Much more strangely, it's how they find themselves five games under .500 despite outscoring the opposition by nine runs, 76-67, as an above-average offensive team and pitching team has a decidedly below-average record. Monday, it was more of the same in a 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that left them desperate for one more big hit.

"It's coming, and I keep saying it," manager Brad Mills said. "But I know it's there. It's right there."

Monday night, it wasn't quite there as the Astros dropped to 2-8 in games decided by two or fewer runs. Down 6-2 after a rough start from Lucas Harrell, the Astros came almost all the way back in the seventh inning, falling one more big single away from tying the game.

Brian Bogusevic turned a 6-2 deficit into a 6-4 deficit with a two-run triple, and Chris Johnson followed up with a single to make it 6-5. But the usual problems crept up, no matter the hit total, just one more hit was the hardest to get.

The Astros had two more shots against reliever Jose Veras. But Jose Altuve struck out with runners on first and second, and pinch-hitter Matt Downs was robbed by Aramis Ramirez at third on a strong stop. They would go quietly in the eighth and ninth innings.

"We're playing really competitive games right now," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "(Monday) we could have easily rolled over and we made it tough on them."

Astros Notes & Quotes

  • SS Jed Lowrie hit his first home run as an Astro batting left-handed against Milwaukee righty Zack Greinke. Entering Monday's game, he had hit only eight of his home runs as a left-handed hitter, despite having nearly twice as many plate appearances from that side.

  • RHP Lucas Harrell took the blame for the Astros' loss Monday after giving up five runs in five innings, including two triples and a home run.

    "I didn't really have command of my secondary stuff," Harrell said. "My sinker was really good, and I really got hurt most of the game with my off-speed stuff.

  • C Jason Castro survived a huge collision with Brewers 1B Mat Gamel, who tried unsuccessfully to score on a foul pop-out to 1B Carlos Lee. Castro walked off the field slowly after taking the direct shot and holding onto the ball, but he remained in the game and later called it a clean play.

    "I've been hit before but that's probably the hardest I've ever been hit," Castro said. "I actually feel alright."

  • CF Jordan Schafer got his name in there with some pretty good company by reaching base safely in his first 17 games of the season. Prior to Schafer, the last Astros player to do that was Craig Biggio, who began the 2000 season with a 17-game streak.

  • OF Travis Buck did not play for the fifth game in a row, as he has still not even pinch-hit since straining his hamstring last Wednesday against the Nationals. Buck has been available to hit if needed, and Brad Mills thought he might be nearing readiness to play the outfield, but he had been the top lefty bat off the bench.

  • By the Numbers: 10 – Consecutive games the Astros have lost to the Brewers after Monday night's 6-5 defeat in Milwaukee.

  • Quote to Note: "It's really frustrating for me because these guys are out here playing their (rear) off for me and you don't have all your stuff that day and you cost the team a win." -- RHP Lucas Harrell, after giving up five runs in five innings against the Brewers.

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