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Harrell struggles as Astros fall to Royals

Corporan's homer is too little, too late on Jackie Robinson Day

HOUSTON -- Nothing is coming easy for the Astros right now on offense, but manager Bo Porter isn't about to lose faith in his team.

The Astros were held to four hits, including a homer by catcher Carlos Corporan, and struck out 12 times in a 4-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, but help is on the way. The team will call up top prospect George Springer on Wednesday, learned.

"We're going to have to get some offense going," Porter said. "Regardless of how well you pitch or how well you play defense, the name of the game is the team with the most runs wins. If you're struggling to score runs, you're going to have a hard time winning. Right now, we're struggling to score runs and it makes it pretty tough."

Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell struggled to locate against the Royals, giving up four runs, five hits and three walks to fall to 0-3 in three starts. He was designated for assignment after the game, meaning the Astros have 10 days to trade, release him, trade him or send him to the Minor Leagues.

"I felt like I made some good pitches," Harrell said. "I got the ball on the ground and made a couple of bad pitches up over the plate. A couple of balls were hit hard. Overall, I felt like I slowly but steadily am making improvements."

The four starting pitchers to take their turn in the rotation prior to Harrell had each pitched seven innings, combining to post a 1.61 ERA in that span. The outing was the longest of Harrell's three starts this year, but he's allowed at least four earned runs in each of those starts.

"Each and every one of our starters, I think they go out there with the notion of they're going to do everything they can to give the ballclub a chance to win," Porter said. "Our offense is going to break out of this. It's a phase we're going through right now. Do you want to see it? No, but I firmly believe we're going to break out of it, and we're going to break out of it soon."

Harrell retired six of the first seven batters he faced, giving up a solo homer to Omar Infante with one out in the first inning. The Astros got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Dexter Fowler stroked a leadoff double, went to third on Jason Castro's single and scored on an errant throw by Royals starter Yordano Ventura.

"I think probably we're trying to do a little too much," Castro said. "We need to trust ourselves and stay within ourselves and not try to force the issue. That's kind of the problem right now. I know everyone is trying, including me. We know what we're capable of sometimes we're getting a little too aggressive where we're trying to force the issue. I think we have to take a step back and learn to trust it and know we're capable of getting things done. We have to take what they give us and work from there."

The Royals took a 3-1 lead in the third inning. Lorenzo Cain singled to start the inning and wound up at third after the ball rolled under the glove of left-fielder Robbie Grossman, who was told after the game he was optioned to Triple-A following an 0-for-4 night.

Infante narrowly beat out what would have been an inning-ending double play, scoring Cain, and Eric Hosmer followed with an RBI double to make it 3-1.

"Things happen, and no matter what happens, you've still got to make pitches," Harrell said. "I take that on my shoulders. Sometimes bad luck is not really bad luck, it's making bad pitches."

Corporan belted his second homer of the season for the Astros in the fifth, taking Ventura deep to right field. Ventura worked seven innings and allowed four hits and two runs while striking out seven batters.

"We have a lot of guys that are struggling right now that we know are going to have a good season," Corporan said. "It's only 15 games in and hopefully everybody is going to get hot together at the same time, including myself."

Paul Clemens, who was called up late last week when Scott Feldman was placed on the bereavement list, pitched well in relief in his first Major League action of 2014. He worked three scoreless innings, allowing two hits.

"Clemens threw the ball well," Porter said. "It was good to see Fields bounce back and really command all three of his pitches tonight. His fastball had late life that we're used to seeing. Clemens and Fields, they both threw the ball well."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Read More: Houston Astros, Carlos Corporan, Lucas Harrell, Paul Clemens