The Houston Astros might be without their best hitter again, but J.D. Martinez will try to keep picking up the slack.
A strained right hamstring has sidelined Altuve for the first half of this four-game series with San Diego (27-48). The second baseman is Houston's leader with a .309 average, but Martinez is doing his part to fill the void for the Astros (31-43).
The left fielder is hitting .333 in the first eight of this 10-game homestand, and he's connected for three homers while going 5 for 16 with eight RBIs to spur Houston's 3-1 run.
"He's getting back into that hitter that we all saw last year and that's nice to see," manager Brad Mills said. "He's on a little roll here and we surely hope that can continue."
Mills and Martinez had a talk and watched some video of him at the plate at the beginning of this homestand in an attempt to improve his approach. Martinez said he's feeling good and not missing his pitches lately.
"You want to make a difference - anything you can do to help the team win," said Martinez, who is batting .235 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs overall.
His production has keyed the Astros' recent offensive breakthrough. They're hitting .294 with 10 homers in four games after compiling a .225 average with five home runs while losing six of the previous seven.
Lucas Harrell (6-6, 4.77 ERA) is slated to get the ball against the Padres for the first time as he tries to continue pitching well at home.
The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts there, though the loss came in hard-luck fashion Friday. He struck out a career-high nine over seven innings while yielding one run and two hits in a 2-0 defeat to Cleveland.
"The location of his fastball was pretty impressive," Mills said. "That was the biggest thing. He stayed aggressive with his fastball. He was making really good pitches on it."
The Padres are expected to turn to Clayton Richard (5-7, 3.95), who is hoping to carry his interleague success back against NL opponents.
The left-hander had a 1.69 ERA in winning his last three starts. All of those came against the AL, with two on the road.
He's 0-4 with a 6.57 ERA in six starts away from home against NL teams.
Richard's latest outing was more memorable at the plate than on the mound, as he went 2 for 2 with a double and three RBIs Friday as the Padres rallied for a 9-5 win over Seattle.
Richard was a reason the comeback was needed, as he allowed four runs in the first three innings before settling down and yielding one more in the next 3 2-3.
"If we're winning, that's the fun," Richard told the team's official website. "If we're winning, then I don't care how it happens."
In his lone start against Houston, Richard was tagged for six runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings April 17, 2011, at Minute Maid Park. He didn't get a decision in San Diego's 8-6 win.
|San Diego Padres|
|June 21, 2012||Anthony Bass||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 10, 2012||Cameron Maybin||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sprained neck|
|June 04, 2012||Will Venable||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|June 04, 2012||Eric Stults||15-Day DL||Strained left latissimus dorsi muscle|
|May 31, 2012||Andy Parrino||15-Day DL||Sore right hand|
|May 31, 2012||Andy Parrino||15-Day DL||Sore right hand|
|June 24, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 20, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left ankle sprain|
|June 13, 2012||Bud Norris||15-Day DL||Sprained left knee|
|June 11, 2012||Wilton Lopez||15-Day DL||Right elbow sprain|
|June 09, 2012||Fernando Martinez||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 07, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||15-Day DL||Bruised right heel|
HOUSTON (AP) -- Lucas Harrell hadn't finished cleaning out his ears from a cream pie to the face that he received after pitching his first complete game Wednesday night.
But first he stopped for a fist bump with left fielder J.D. Martinez and a hearty pat on catcher Chris Snyder 's shoulders - a nod to the pair of Astros who made his big night possible.
Harrell pitched a six-hitter and Martinez threw out a runner at the plate in the ninth inning to preserve Houston's 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres .
"You can't say more about that throw in the last inning by J.D.," Harrell said. "It's a big situation, he throws it right on the money and Snyder makes a great scoop and tag. It's one of those things where you just throw the ball, let them hit it and let everybody else do (the work)."
Matt Downs homered and Harrell finished it off by striking out Nick Hundley with the bases loaded.
"To see him pitch like he has and be able to do what he did tonight in a 1-0 game and to be able to get that complete game and throw like he did, that's pretty cool," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "That's really cool."
San Diego manager Bud Black was impressed with Harrell's work.
"It was another night of pressing them as best we could without scoring," Black said. "They executed a play in the ninth and beat us. We didn't lose that game. The Astros beat us."
The drive by Downs was one of only two hits by the Astros, who couldn't get anything else going against starter Clayton Richard (5-8).
"Baseball is a funny game," Richard said. "Sometimes you pitch well and don't get the results you want. But that just goes to show how much of a team game this is. You have to have everything going to get wins."
Harrell (7-6) allowed four hits through the first eight innings, but things got dicey for the rookie after that.
Chase Headley singled to start the ninth and San Diego had runners at first and second with one out when Logan Forsythe singled into shallow left. Pinch-runner Alexi Amarista headed for home, but Martinez scooped up the ball and fired to Snyder in time.
Martinez wasn't sure if he had him when he launched the throw.
"I knew the guy was fast," he said. "I was just lucky that my outfield coach put me in good position, brought me in a little bit and gave me a much better chance to get to the ball quicker and make a much better throw on it."
Pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay walked to load the bases, but Harrell hung tough and whiffed Hundley to end it.
Harrell was a bit amped up when he faced the last batter and pumped his fist when he saw Hundley's final swing.
"It was definitely a big thing for me," he said. "That was my first big league complete game and it was just a little adrenaline running through me."
Harrell struck out seven and walked four. Previously, his longest outing was 7 1-3 innings.
Richard struck out five in seven innings, but couldn't get any run support to back up his solid night on the mound.
Martinez singled for Houston's first hit to open the second inning. The homer by Downs started the third inning before Richard retired the next 15 batters he faced.
He was replaced by Dale Thayer for the eighth inning and he picked up where Richard left off, setting down the next three Astros to make it 18 in a row.
Yonder Alonso , who returned to the starting lineup after missing the last three games with a sore knee, singled with one out in the second. But Houston turned a double play in that inning before Harrell pitched a perfect third to face the minimum through the first three innings.
He got into a bit of a jam in the fourth after walking Everth Cabrera with one out before Carlos Quentin drew a two-out walk. Alonso grounded out to end the inning.
The Padres also threatened in the fifth after a single by Forsythe before Richard singled with two outs. Harrell escaped again with a groundout.
That was the start of Harrell retiring 10 of 11 batters. First baseman Carlos Lee helped his cause when he dived to stop a grounder by pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia with his body, and crawled to retrieve the dribbling ball as he extended his leg on the base for the first out of the eighth.
NOTES: Houston 2B Jose Altuve was out of the lineup for the third straight game with a strained right hamstring. ... The teams wrap up a four-game series Thursday when San Diego's Andrew Cashner faces left-hander Dallas Keuchel .