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Padres punchless in loss to Astros

Padres punchless in loss to Astros

HOUSTON -- Chase Headley has hit enough balls in his life, professional or otherwise, to know when he has really squared one up on the barrel of the bat.

So, for a fleeting moment on Friday, Headley felt awfully good about the swing he put on a fastball in the first inning against the Astros, a drive that felt good, sounded good and even looked good as he followed the path of the ball with his own eyes.

"I haven't played at every park, but I feel safe to say that there's not a play to be made on that ball," Headley said. "Most of the time, it's a home run when you hit it like that."

Not Friday, though.

Instead, Headley's long fly ball to center field was flagged down by Michael Bourn, who, as it turns out, snatched the Padres' best chance to score in a 2-0 loss to the Astros, out of thin air with a twisting, tumbling catch on the berm in center field.

"It's frustrating," Headley said. "You do everything right at the plate, then that happens. I thought it was two runs for sure, if not three."

Granted, the Padres (13-17) did few things right at the plate Friday, as left-hander Wandy Rodriguez overcame a rocky start to toss eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and nary a walk.

The Padres, shut out for the third time this season, had one baserunner after the second inning and were left with nothing to show for pitcher Chad Gaudin's strong start that saw the right-hander allow two runs in seven innings.

Afterwards, manager Bud Black didn't have much to nitpick about, other than a scant few wasted opportunities early against Rodriguez, who twice worked out of second-and-third situations unscathed in the first two innings.

"We had a couple of chances in the first two innings, but he found his groove. ... We just didn't get to him," Black said.

They nearly did in the first inning when leadoff hitter David Eckstein reached on a single and, one out later, raced to third base on Scott Hairston's double down the third-base line that former Padre Geoff Blum couldn't flag down.

After Adrian Gonzalez grounded out, with the runners holding, Headley got a hold of a 1-1 fastball, driving it high to deep center field, where Bourn, who has above-average speed, turned his back and ran to a spot near the berm in straightaway center field.

Headley, who had a good look at the play as he rounded first base, said the ball began to drift from left to right late because he "stayed inside it," meaning he kept his hands in on the ball. Said Headley: "It looked like he overran it."

Only he didn't, as Bourn reached up and over his head, catching the ball before tumbling to the grass as the inning ended. On his slow jog back to the outfield, the crowd of 28,139 at Minute Maid Park gave him a standing ovation.

"I was trying to track it down. It was hit harder than I thought it was," Bourn said. "I kind of was fighting my body a little bit because it was almost directly over my head."

So what happens if Bourn doesn't catch that ball?

"It changed the whole complexion of the game. If we jump out to a 2-0 lead ... you don't know what happens," Black said. "Right off the bat, I thought that it was a double. It was a fantastic catch. In today's game, speed showed up."

Speed and strong starting pitching, but that's about it, as the Padres and Houston (12-17) had 10 hits between them, including a two-out, two-run single on, as Black called it, "a four-hopper" to right field by Hunter Pence in the fifth inning that accounted for all the offense.

Gaudin, making his fourth start for the Padres since signing a Minor League contract on April 12, pitched better than he did five days ago against the Dodgers, when he allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Gaudin showed good life on his fastball, such as when he ran a 94-mph pitch up and in on Pence for a strikeout in the third inning. He held that velocity through the seventh inning and threw a handful of sliders that gave the Astros fits.

Even the pitch Pence hit between first and second base, the one that accounted for all of the offense, wasn't a pitch Gaudin necessarily wanted back.

"He did what I wanted him to do ... hit it in the dirt," said Gaudin, who struck out five, walked three and hit one batter. "I made good pitches. That was a check swing and he hit it where we weren't."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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