With both Jake Peavy and Chris Young on the 15-day disabled list, Kevin Correia had developed into the pitching staff's current ace with a streak of five consecutive quality starts, an outing of at least six innings and three or fewer runs.
He deviated from that trend with a lackluster start on Thursday, allowing six runs on eight hits in five innings of work.
"It wasn't good. I didn't have the command. I didn't have the same stuff that I was throwing the last few starts," Correia said. "That's going to happen, but I was battling through. I just kind of gave it up that last inning. That's the only inning that bothers me."
The bothersome inning was the fifth, which the Padres entered trailing, 3-0. The Astros stretched their lead to 6-0 when Geoff Blum knocked a three-run homer to right field, scoring Miguel Tejada, who hit a leadoff single, and Lance Berkman, whom Correia walked.
"It was a bad pitch," Correia said of the home run. "It was a slider I pulled down and in when I wanted it down and away."
Blum said he "got it pretty good" and instantly knew it was a home run.
"If it didn't go out, there were going to be some serious issues with the ballpark configuration," he said. "It was a slider hung out over the middle of the plate, and he had thrown me a few in the at-bats previous, so I had seen it."
Despite surrendering two runs in the first and one in the third, Correia said he maintained confidence and thought the deficit was still manageable going into the fifth.
"That's what hurts. I wasn't having a good start, but I could have kept us in it," he said. "I got through five, but it was just couple of bad pitches, and overall, it just kind of wasn't where I wanted it to be."
By allowing six runs, Correia tied his season-high mark set on May 26 in a 6-5 road loss to Arizona.
"His stuff was fine," said Padres manager Bud Black. "If you point to anything, it was his fastball command that wasn't where we had seen it lately. He elevated a few pitches, but his overall command wasn't where we've seen it the last five starts."
The Padres' bats certainly didn't offer much help to Correia. They left nine runners on base during the game and were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The greatest missed opportunity occurred during a no-out, bases loaded scenario in the third inning.
The Padres squandered two chances to score with the bases loaded: the first when Correia was out at home after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez grounded into a forceout.
With one out and the bases still loaded, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded into a double play to end the third inning.
"In most cases, you'll have a couple of situations where you can cash in ... [and] that was ours," Black said. "We had the opportunities. We just couldn't get the big hit."
Scott Hairston doubled in the fifth inning to score shortstop Everth Cabrera, who reached base on a single in the previous at-bat, and the Padres added another run in the ninth when Cabrera grounded into a forceout, scoring second baseman Edgar Gonzalez.
Hairston said the bee delay only increased the Padres' frustrations for the day.
"It's tough, and it's unfortunate that we had to go through that, especially that late in the game," he said.
But even Hairston couldn't help but crack a smile when describing Blanks' reaction to the swarm in left field.
"I saw him running in, and I was wondering why he was running," Hairston said. "He was looking over his shoulder. I looked and saw this huge swarm of bees, and then I just started running."