Houston at Washington

Scoreboard
Houston (44-51) «0120002005120
Washington (36-60)000000000050

Backe does it all to send Astros into break on rare high note

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Brandon Backe loves to bat, slide and play the field. All things being equal, he'd rather be an everyday player than a pitcher.

On Sunday, he was about as close to Mr. Everything as he's ever going to get. He pitched seven-plus innings, went 2-for-3 with a double and scored twice in the Houston Astros' 5-0 victory over the notoriously shutout-prone Washington Nationals.

"I would just love be able to be the everyday player -- diving catches, running into the wall, getting dirty," Backe said. "I'm just sad I didn't get to slide today."

Backe raised his batting average to .345 while lowering his ERA to 4.76. He was so effective at the plate that other players were laying down sacrifice bunts to move their pitcher along. About the only thing he didn't do was execute a squeeze play in the fourth inning, instead fouling the pitch off.

"We feel like we're playing with nine instead of eight," outfielder Carlos Lee said. "Backe's a good hitter."

Ty Wigginton added his eighth homer of the season and Lee had three RBI for the Astros, who took two of three from the Nationals and finished 4-5 on their road trip leading into the All-Star break.

But back to Backe (6-9), who apparently hasn't heard that pitchers aren't supposed to spend a ton of time on the basepaths on a hot summer day. He supplemented his first multihit game of the year with his best game to date on the mound, allowing only five hits with four walks and five strikeouts. He worked out of jams in the second and third but settled down in the middle innings before he was removed after issuing a walk to lead off the eighth.

"Brandon Backe, Brandon Backe, Brandon Backe, Brandon Backe, that was what we got today," manager Cecil Cooper said. "Two-for-3. Scored a couple of runs. Seven shutout innings. What could you say? He threw over 100 pitches. I thought he was really, really good. That's the Brandon Backe we like."

Backe feasted on the injury-plagued Nationals, who have baseball's worst record and worst offense. They were shut out for the 12th time, most in the majors, and have lost 10 of 13. They sent the minimum number of batters to the plate over the final five innings, their only two runners erased by double plays.

"We need a few more guys to step it up," manager Manny Acta said. "Right now, we're battling on almost every at-bat."

Washington starter Odalis Perez (2-7), whose last outing ended prematurely when he was ejected after arguing a pair of third-inning balks, allowed three runs and nine hits over six innings. Perez enters the break with a respectable 3.71 ERA, but, like many Nationals pitchers, he has suffered from a seasonlong lack of run support.

Backe doubled to left open the third inning and scored on Lance Berkman's two-out single. Berkman then stole second without a throw when the Nationals stopped paying attention to him, a miscue that became costly when Lee singled to center to score Berkman.

Backe's single to left led off the seventh. He was bunted to second, then he and Berkman scored on Lee's two-out single.

"Everybody on the team knows I take pride in hitting," Backe said. "You can't throw the ball all the time and make yourself a better pitcher, but you can always hit. I can't imagine anybody working on it more than me, to be honest with you."

Notes

  • Houston first-round draft pick Jason Castro, who agreed to contract terms Saturday, had breakfast with Cooper and visited with the team before the game.
  • Perez fell to 0-5 vs. the Astros in seven career starts. The six previous starts had been at Houston.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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All-Star Lance Berkman plates a run to help the Astros in a battle of divisional basement dwellers.  (AP)
All-Star Lance Berkman plates a run to help the Astros in a battle of divisional basement dwellers. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

C. Lee
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 3
Houston

B. Backe
IP 7.0
H 5
ER 0
BB 4
K 5
 

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Houston Astros
Darin Erstad, CF-LF4010014 .294
Kazuo Matsui, 2B5020013 .283
Lance Berkman, 1B3211112 .347
Carlos Lee, LF4023012 .302
    Michael Bourn, CF0000000 .218
Miguel Tejada, SS4010002 .275
Ty Wigginton, 3B3121101 .282
Hunter Pence, RF4010021 .263
J.R. Towles, C4000003 .147
Brandon Backe, P3220012 .345
    Chris Sampson, P0000100 .150
Totals34512537  
Batting
2B - Hunter Pence (19, O. Perez), Brandon Backe (2, O. Perez)
HR - Ty Wigginton (8, O. Perez)
SH - Darin Erstad (1)
RBI - Lance Berkman (73), Carlos Lee 3 (76), Ty Wigginton (22)
2-OUT RBI - Lance Berkman (32), Carlos Lee 3 (40)
SB - Lance Berkman (15, 2nd base off O. Perez/Nieves)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Darin Erstad 1
DP - Wigginton-Matsui-Berkman, Sampson-Tejada-Berkman
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe (W,6-9) 7500450 4.76
Chris Sampson 2000010 4.50
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 107-65, Chris Sampson 13-14
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 6-8, Chris Sampson 3-1
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 28, Chris Sampson 5
Washington Nationals
Willie Harris, CF2000200 .221
Paul Lo Duca, 1B4010001 .227
Cristian Guzman, SS3000120 .313
Austin Kearns, RF4010011 .205
Ronnie Belliard, 3B4010013 .233
Kory Casto, LF4010000 .212
Pete Orr, 2B3000002 .167
Wil Nieves, C2010100 .256
Odalis Perez, P2000014 .240
    Charlie Manning, P0000000 .000
    Jesus Colome, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Langerhans, PH1000010 .188
    Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
    Jon Rauch, P0000000 .000
Totals2905046  
a-struck out for Colome in the 7th
Batting
2B - Wil Nieves (4, Backe)
CS - Willie Harris (2, 2nd base by Backe/Towles)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Austin Kearns 1
DP - Orr-Lo Duca, Belliard-Orr-Lo Duca, Ayala-Guzman-Lo Duca
Washington Nationals
Odalis Perez (L,2-7) 6933161 3.71
Charlie Manning 0.2122100 5.12
Jesus Colome 0.1100000 5.48
Luis Ayala 1100000 5.44
Jon Rauch 1000110 2.85
IBB - Berkman by Charlie Manning
WP - Jesus Colome (6)
Pitches-Strikes - Odalis Perez 104-70, Charlie Manning 8-3, Jesus Colome 5-4, Luis Ayala 12-7, Jon Rauch 18-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Odalis Perez 6-4, Charlie Manning 2-0, Luis Ayala 2-0
Batters Faced - Odalis Perez 26, Charlie Manning 4, Jesus Colome 1, Luis Ayala 3, Jon Rauch 4
Game Information
Attendance - 31463
Game Time - 2:55
Temperature - 86
Umpires - Home - Sam Holbrook, First Base - Scott Barry, Second Base - Charlie Reliford, Third Base - Kevin Causey