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Houston Astros Left Stranded as Offense Continues To Sputter

HOUSTON - APRIL 11:  Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros drives the ball deep foul in the bottom of the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park on April 11, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Brandon WilliamsCorrespondent IApril 23, 2010

The 2010 Astros can be best summed up by this stat: through 15 games, the pitching staff have more extra base hits (2) than left fielder and cleanup hitter Carlos Lee (1).

Certainly, Lee will snap out of it. Right?

Right?

It's not just Lee that has suffered offensive atrophy in the first three weeks of the season. The Astros managed nine hits in Thursday's 5-1 loss to Florida, but all nine were singles.

Four of the hits came with two out, which didn't get the 21,802 fans giddy for a rally most knew wasn't going to happen.

"We weren't able to get something going," said manager Brad Mills of the Astros' offense. "We want to play good baseball....we didn't do that a few times tonight."

Houston recorded at least one hit in each inning except the sixth and ninth. They were able to push Marlins starter Anibel Sanchez at times, but were never able to deliver the key hit that was a trademark of a four-game winning streak that ended on Thursday night.

Key hits are few and far in between if your team entered the night batting .196 with runners in scoring position.

Nor does it bode well if a pinch-hitter (Jason Michaels) shares the team's RBI lead (five).

Michaels' RBI total is one less than the combined number of Houston's No. 3-4-5 hitters (Lance Berkman, Lee and Hunter Pence). Lee is hitting a robust .136 and hear a resounding chorus of boos after grounding out with runners on the corner to end the bottom of the seventh.

Lee's struggles at the plate showed up in the field on Thursday, as he misplayed a Jorge Cantu single into an error that plated two of the three runs the Marlins score in the top of the first inning.

One of six players who have driven in at least 100 runs in each of the last five seasons, Lee's awful April could lead to night off in the near future as the Astros attempt to overcome the stench of an 0-8 start.

The Astros entered the night batting .224 as a team, worst in the National League; only the Chicago White Sox (.217) and Cleveland (.215) are more putrid at the plate than Houston.

Mills was quick to dispel any notion that this weekend's visit from Pittsburgh would be a needed elixir considering the Pirates come into Minute Maid Park after being outscored 36-1 by Milwaukee in a three-game sweep, including a 20-0 flogging inflicted on them by the Brewers on Thursday.

"We can only concentrate on what we do," he said. "You can't judge them off of what happened to them (against the Brewers)."

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