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SD@HOU: Richard allows two hits, one run over seven

HOUSTON -- In a duel of former teammates, the Astros' Lucas Harrell was just a bit better than the Padres' Clayton Richard on Wednesday, at least on the scoreboard.

Richard, who spent five years in the White Sox organization with Harrell, allowed two hits in seven innings, but one of them was a solo homer from Matt Downs.

Harrell spread six hits over a complete-game shutout, helping the Astros take a 1-0 victory at Minute Maid Park in a tidy one hour and 58 minutes, the shortest Padres game this season.

Manager Bud Black said Richard is starting to get on a roll. In his last four starts, the left-hander has a 1.31 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. With the loss on Wednesday, he is 3-1 over that span.

"He did his job. He threw great," Black said. "Both guys threw great. Their guy threw a heck of a game too."

The Padres had a chance to tie the game in the ninth, but pinch-runner Alexi Amarista was cut down at the plate by J.D. Martinez on a Logan Forsythe single.

Nick Hundley struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.

"They beat us. We didn't lose that game. The Astros beat us," Black said. "[Harrell] pitched well and they made a defensive play at the end."

Downs provided the Astros' offense early, hitting a solo homer on a 3-1 count to lead off the third inning. It was his fifth homer of the season.

"I just fell behind him," Richard said. "He did a good job hitting. When you fall behind guys, that's what happens."

Richard only allowed one other hit, a single from J.D. Martinez to open the second inning.

"You never know if a swing like that is going to last for nine innings," Downs said. "You never know you're going to win the game, 1-0, so you look up there and it's 1-0 in the ninth inning and you see how important it is to score every run you can."

After giving up the homer to Downs, Richard retired the next 15 batters to conclude his night. He pounded the strike zone, throwing 55 strikes in his 84 pitches.

Black decided to pinch-hit for Richard to lead off the eighth. Chris Denofria grounded out to Carlos Lee, Will Venable lined out and Everth Cabrera grounded out to Harrell to end the frame.

Richard wanted to stay in the game like most pitchers would.

"In that situation, a one-run game, Bud's going to make the decision that he feels is best suited to help us win the ballgame," Richard said.

"That was a classic example of a National League game, where you have to bring him out," Black said. "You've got to pinch-hit for him and try to tie the game and try to go ahead."

Dale Thayer pitched a hitless eighth.

The Padres didn't get much off Harrell, going down in order in the first, third, sixth and eighth innings. San Diego picked up six singles and four walks off the right-hander but couldn't string together a rally until the ninth inning. Yonder Alonso, coming back from soreness in his left knee, was the only Padre to pick up multiple hits on Wednesday.

San Diego left eight runners on base. The Astros didn't leave a single runner on.

Richard said the loss was tough to swallow and that close losses sometimes sting just a bit more than blowouts.

"Baseball's a funny game," Richard said. "Sometimes you pitch well and you don't get the results you want. Sometimes you pitch poorly. It just goes to show how much of a team game this is. You have to have everything going to get wins, and that's sometimes tough to do."

Richard and Harrell, who both work quickly, dictated the fast pace of the game. At 118 minutes, the game was the third-shortest in Minute Maid Park history.

Black is confident that Richard won't let the final result of his outing bother him going forward.

"That's pitching," Black said. "Clayton's been around long enough to know that's part of pitching. I think he can take solace in the fact that he went out and pitched a heck of a game. He's pitched four outstanding games in a row. Clayton probably is one of the guys that has as good a perspective on his outings -- on baseball -- than maybe anybody in that [clubhouse]."

Richard didn't expect his former teammate Harrell to text him or call him on Wednesday, but he definitely expects to hear from him before Thursday's game.

"He'll probably give me a hard time tomorrow," Richard said.

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