HOUSTON -- As right-hander Lance McCullers was dissecting his performance Friday night, he took comfort in the fact the Padres didn't hit many balls hard, with the exception of a pair of doubles in the fifth inning that were the only hits he allowed with an exit velocity of more than 100 mph.
Those came during a stretch where the Padres strung together five consecutive hits off McCullers -- one more than the Astros managed the entire game against San Diego -- and scored twice to break a tie and win, 4-1, at Minute Maid Park to snap Houston's five-game winning streak.
McCullers wasn't left with much room for error considering the way the Padres threw the ball. Starter Luis Perdomo (1-1) allowed one run and four singles in five innings, and three relievers combined to set down 12 of 13 batters. The four hits were a season low for the Astros' high-octane offense.
"It was a pretty quiet night all the way around," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We couldn't piece too many things together. They pitched their game plan pretty well. They did pound us inside, either by design or by result. But yeah, certainly a quiet night."
McCullers (1-1) gave up three runs (two earned) and seven hits in five innings. As usual, McCullers was curveball heavy, throwing 52 curves from among his 91 pitches. He said he expects his curveball to improve and will work in more changeups -- he threw only one Friday -- as the season progresses.
"I saw a guy that was battling his pitches," Hinch said. "He didn't have his breaking ball like he normally does so he had to make do with less than his best pitch. I never thought the game was going to get away from him at all and the two-strike hits -- five hits in a row in the fifth -- kind of did him in. He was battling the shape of his breaking ball and his ability to finish hitters much of the night."
The game was tied when Padres catcher Austin Hedges led off the fifth with a 103.5-mph double to left, just past left fielder Derek Fisher. A nubber off the bat of Manuel Margot split McCullers and first baseman Marwin Gonzalez for a weak hit. Jose Pirela followed with a 104.7-mph rocket over the head of Josh Reddick in right field score a pair and put the Padres ahead, 3-1.
"I think I really caught my groove in the third and threw really well in the fourth," McCullers said. "I can't control what happens when the ball comes out of my hand. I feel like there's been a couple of balls the last couple of games that hopefully can catch some gloves and aren't placed as well. There were a couple of hits that fifth inning that [sent] my pitch count up."
Padres reliever Jordan Lyles, the former Astros' first-round Draft pick, breezed through two innings, striking four of the six batters he faced. Kirby Yates threw a 1-2-3 eighth, and Gonzalez's one-out walk in the ninth against Brad Hand didn't materialize.
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Two-strike woes: Four of the five consecutive hits McCullers allowed in the fifth inning came with two strikes -- the double by Hedges (0-2 count), infielder single by Margot (1-2), two-run double by Pirela (3-2) and the single by Eric Hosmer (0-2). Last year, opponents hit .153 against McCullers with two strikes.
"Right now, the ball is going where the guys aren't," McCullers said. "I've got to do a better job in the fifth and not giving up that big double, and that's it. That came down to the game."
Clutch-less city: For the first time since their Opening Day win over the Rangers last week, the Astros were held without a hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-3. Brian McCann and Fisher made consecutive outs to end the second with runners on first and second base, and Gonzalez grounded out to end the third with runners at first and second. The Astros managed only two base runners after the third.
"These are guys we hadn't seen," Hinch said. "Perdomo's ball was moving all over the place, Yates has got a good arm, Lyles came in and did his part and then Hand was in the strike zone, which he hasn't been a lot of the season."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Reddick extended his Interleague hitting streak to 15 games, during which he's hitting .444 (28-for-63).
Gerrit Cole makes his Minute Maid Park debut with the Astros when they face the Padres at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday. Cole was terrific in his first start with Houston, striking out 11 batters in seven innings while allowing two hits and one run Sunday against the Rangers in Arlington.
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