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HOU@SD: Vincent enters in fifth to work out of a jam

SAN DIEGO -- There's more than one side to every story, and the Padres' 2-0 loss to the Astros on Monday night is a perfect example.

The basic hits-runs-errors line tells one story: it was a frustrating night for the Padres, as they outhit the struggling Astros 6-5 but still could not eclipse the runs Houston scored on two early sacrifice flies.

"A hit here and there, and we're right back in the game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We couldn't seem to barrel enough balls."

The more esoteric parts of the box score tell another tale. The game took three hours, 21 minutes and saw nine combined pitchers throw 316 pitches. The five Padres pitchers yielded nine walks but stranded 13 Astros runners. That line reveals the grunt work done by the bullpen, which battled through 4 2/3 scoreless innings in support of a struggling Kip Wells (1-3).

"[The bullpen] was stressed a couple times, and they came out of it unscathed," Black said. "We had to use them all, and they responded."

Wells struggled to find his command from the get-go, though that the Padres were in an early hole wasn't entirely his fault. The game's first batter, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, lined a ball to center field, where Cameron Maybin charged hard only to see the ball sail over his head. The misplay became a double that turned into a run when Marwin Gonzalez moved Altuve to third with a groundout and first baseman Scott Moore drove him home with a sacrifice fly.

Altuve and Moore also combined for the Astros' second run in the third inning. Altuve, Houston's 22-year-old All-Star, walked with one out, stole second base and moved to third on a Gonzalez single, setting up Moore's second sac fly of the game.

That walk was one of five issued by Wells over his 4 1/3 innings. He yielded three hits and struck out two, but labored before handing the ball off to the bullpen with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth.

"We kind of had a plan to pitch them backwards at times: with certain guys, start them soft, finish them hard. ... When that didn't work, I didn't make an adjustment quick enough to go to more fastballs," Wells said. "That being said, the bullpen came in and did a great job."

It certainly wasn't easy for the bullpen.

The first man to relieve Wells was San Diego-area native Nick Vincent, who was recalled from Triple-A Tucson prior to the game. He came in to that bases-loaded, one-out jam and proceeded to strike out cleanup hitter Justin Maxwell before getting Brian Bogusevic to ground out. He also twirled a scoreless sixth.

That wasn't the only bases-loaded situation escaped by a Padres reliever, as Dale Thayer also inherited that sticky scenario from lefty Alex Hinshaw in the eighth. Like Vincent a few innings earlier, Thayer struck out the first man he faced before inducing an inning-ending flyout. The righty went on to throw a scoreless ninth.

"Vincent did a nice job, Thayer did a nice job," Black said. "Those guys really picked each other up."

But the Padres' offense simply couldn't pick up its pitching staff, despite having runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. San Diego scattered six hits among five different players, including doubles from Alexi Amarista and Jesus Guzman. Amarista, who also singled to make him the only Padre with a multi-hit game, was a late addition to the starting lineup after outfielder Carlos Quentin was scratched with right knee soreness.

The San Diego offense was held at bay by a strong performance from Houston starter J.A. Happ (7-9), who threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings while scattering four hits with four strikeouts. Brett Myers recorded his 19th save with a scoreless ninth, nailing down a win that snapped a 13-game road losing streak for the Astros.

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