Monday, August 8, 2011

Hudson hit hard as D-backs drop opener

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- "Make one pitch," D-backs starter Daniel Hudson thought to himself, "and get out of this inning."

"Please," he urged his right arm.

But in the first inning of Monday night's game against the Astros at Chase Field, that one pitch wasn't to be found.

For the second time in as many starts, the Astros roughed up Hudson early, to the tune of five runs on six hits in the first inning and seven runs on 11 hits overall, as they cruised to a 9-1 victory in the opener of a four-game set against the D-backs.

"I just tried to tell myself to calm down and get the next guy," Hudson said. "I just couldn't make a pitch and get out of any situation I was in."

And those first-inning situations more often than not began with Hudson delivering a pitch and ended with Houston pounding it all around the diamond.

After retiring leadoff hitter J.B. Shuck, Hudson allowed a double down the left-field line to Jose Altuve before Jason Bourgeois reached on an error by Cody Ransom at short.

J.D. Martinez then gave the Astros a 3-0 lead with an opposite-field home run to right. And while Hudson tried to right the ship by getting Matt Downs to ground out, things remained shaky.

A single off the glove of a diving Paul Goldschmidt at first followed by another single and a double off the glove of an outstretched Justin Upton in right scored two more runs. And suddenly, the D-backs were in a 5-0 hole.

"They came out, swung at everything and hit everything," Hudson said. "When they didn't hit it hard, they found a hole."

And the Astros weren't finished.

In the second they tallied two more runs on four hits, when Matt Downs doubled home a run with one out and Clint Barmes singled home another with two outs.

Houston had its biggest offensive night since July 19 in only a third of the game.

"I gotta give Houston credit, they swung the bats well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "You can say Daniel missed some of his pitches and his locations, which you do every game, but they just pounded him."

The inning included a physical error by Ransom -- who booted a ground ball with one out -- and a mental error by Hudson, who failed to cover first base when Jimmy Paredes blasted a line drive in and out of the glove of Goldschmidt with two outs.

"That was big," Gibson said of the two-out blunder. "He was just unable to overcome it all."

The last time that Hudson faced the Astros, on May 27 in Houston, he allowed six runs in his first four innings before settling down to pitch six innings.

"It looked like the last time he pitched against them," Gibson said.

Hudson, who struck out one and didn't walk any in dropping to 11-8 on the season, doesn't know what to make of his struggles against the Astros.

"I don't really know," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. I've never really pitched well against them, it's just one of those things where a team has my number."

Meanwhile, Wandy Rodriguez had the number of the entire D-backs offense and allowed just two hits over six innings, both of which came in the first inning.

In that first inning, Kelly Johnson and Chris Young singled and Goldschmidt walked to load the bases with two outs. But Collin Cowgill grounded out to third to end the threat.

In the second inning Rodriguez walked a pair, putting runners on the corners with two outs before Johnson struck out swinging.

From there it was cruise control for the left-hander, who struck out five and walked four on the day.

"He was struggling to find that rhythm, and he did in the fourth inning," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "When you have a lead like that, you'd like him to attack. That was part of the rhythm. He wanted to and in a perfect world he would be able to attack. But that was the frustrating thing for him, that he was having trouble doing that."

The Astros tacked on two runs in the sixth on a Paredes single off Zach Duke, who pitched a career-high four innings in relief of Hudson. And Henry Blanco helped the D-backs avoid their third shutout of the season an inning later by drilling a solo home run to left field.

"It feels good to get one, but unfortunately for me it doesn't count," Blanco said. "You just go out there and try to win games."

For the fourth consecutive day, there was no movement in the National League West standings as the D-backs remain a half-game behind the Giants, who lost Monday night.

The D-backs have lost four of five against sub-.500 teams after taking two of three from the Giants last week.

"It wasn't in the cards tonight," Gibson said of a comeback. "We'll just move on to the next day."

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