HOUSTON -- An Astros offense that had been chugging along, scoring at least four runs in eight consecutive games for the first time since 2011, tried to push the envelope on the bases against Cubs starter Jon Lester but saw only one runner get past second base in Friday's 2-0 loss at Minute Maid Park.
Houston, which is without cleanup hitterCarlos Correa (shoulder inflammation) and is dealing with a struggling José Altuve (9-for-61), was shut out for the seventh time this season, though the hitters certainly had their chances.
"Obviously, any time your four-hitter's not in the lineup, it puts some stress on you, but like we said before, the next guy [comes] up and we've got to get it done," designated hitter George Springer said.
The Astros, who went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, put the leadoff man on base in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings but couldn't mount any sort of rally against Lester, who threw seven scoreless frames.
"We did have some chances," manager A.J. Hinch said. "Lester's a good pitcher and he has a way of finding himself out of these jams. We did get the leadoff runner on about half the innings against Lester but couldn't quite get the big hit. We stayed very aggressive on the bases, we stole a few bases, we made one out on the base at third, but overall it was a really well-pitched game on both sides."
Yulieski Gurriel singled to start the second inning and stole second but was stranded there. Alex Bregman singled and stole second to start the third but was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball that got away from catcher David Ross. Third baseman Javier Báez made a quick swipe tag to nab the diving Bregman.
"I felt like I had a great lead and saw it get away and tried to take a chance to get over there with Altuve hitting, giving him a chance to drive in a run right there and put us ahead early," Bregman said. "What was more impressive was Baez's tag. That was a really quick tag. I'll learn from it and get there sooner next time."
Evan Gattis began the fifth with a single but was retired on a double play. Teoscar Hernández led off the sixth with a double and couldn't advance. The only runner to reach third did so in the seventh, when Gurriel singled with one out and advanced to third on Marwin Gonzalez's single. Gonzalez stole second, then Lester struck out Colby Rasmus on a 3-2 fastball to strand runners at second and third.
"It's well documented that people have pushed Lester on the bases quite a bit this year," Hinch said. "I think he's given up the fourth-most stolen bases in the league, so ... if you get baserunners on, you feel like you want to be aggressive.
"We stayed aggressive the best we could. The mind-set going into the game [was] being aggressive. Perfect throw by Ross, perfect tag by Baez and Bregman is out at third, but I was proud of the way our guys took the game plan into the game."