And if the 24-year-old rookie's start Saturday night was his
last one for a while, it was a good one.
Astros manager Phil Garner says he hasn't decided which pitcher
he'll move to the bullpen or send to the minors when Clemens joins
the team on Thursday. Buchholz would seem to be a prime candidate,
though, with only 12 career starts and the Astros' 2-8 record in
his last 10.
"I don't even want to think about that right now," Buchholz
said. "I guess I'll find out soon enough."
Buchholz (4-6) made one last push to keep his job, striking out
six with only one walk to snap a personal three-game losing streak.
"You know something's going to happen. I don't know what,"
Buchholz said. "It's definitely in the back of your mind."
Mike Lamb had an RBI single and scored three runs as the Astros
won for the ninth time in 12 games and improved to 24-15 at Minute
Berkman went 3-for-4, capping his day with a double to
left-center in the eighth that scored Lamb and Chris Burke.
Instead of taking ground balls before the game, Berkman was
lounging in the Astros' clubhouse and watching Rice, his alma
mater, beat Georgia in the College World Series.
"Today was different, because Rice was in the College World
Series," he said. "I figured I was allowed one free pass."
For the second straight night, the Royals took a 1-0 lead over
the Astros in the first inning.
Buchholz allowed runs in the first inning for the fourth time in
eight starts and the Astros had lost the previous three.
"I've always kind of been like that," Buchholz said.
"Usually, my bad innings are the first or second and then I've
been able to get locked in after that.
"I guess I've got to go out there and relax," he said, "but
it's easier said than done, when you're in front of 40,000
Houston answered in the bottom of the first off Royals starter
Bobby Keppel (0-3). Lamb, batting .348 since May 26, doubled down
the right-field line with one out and later scored on Berkman's
single to right.
Adam Everett opened the second inning with a single up the
middle, went to second on Buchholz's bunt and scored on Lamb's
single to right, giving the Astros their first lead of the series.
Everett added an RBI single in the third.
Royals' starters are 9-35 this season.
"I didn't pitch well," said Keppel, a rookie making his fourth
career start. "A starting pitcher took our team right out of the
game. It's just frustrating I didn't do anything right."
Buchholz, meanwhile, sharpened after the first inning, retiring
the next eight Royals he faced before walking Emil Brown in the
fourth. Buchholz fanned Matt Stairs, his fourth strikeout, to end
"They have a nice young pitcher over there, that's for sure,"
Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said.
Mark Teahen led off the fifth with a double and eventually
scored on Bako's grounder to Craig Biggio. The Astros' second
baseman had a chance to throw home for a play on Teahen, but opted
for the easy out at first.
When Ausmus and Everett opened the sixth inning with singles,
Garner called Buchholz back to the dugout and sent in pinch-hitter
Orlando Palmeiro. Palmeiro grounded into a double play, though, and
Biggio flew out to end the inning.
Chad Qualls replaced Buchholz and the Royals threatened in the
Brown beat out a grounder to Everett before Stairs drove a
double off the wall in left-center. Qualls fielded a chopper from
Teahen and fired to Ausmus, who tagged out Brown at the plate.
"That turned the inning," Garner said. "He moved quickly and
Qualls hit Angel Berroa with a pitch to load the bases, but Bako
grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Royals fell to 2-11 in the second games of road series.
... Berkman has 595 RBI since 2001, tops among switch hitters in
that span. ... Ensberg went 0-for-2 with three walks in his first
start since bruising his right shoulder against Atlanta on June 9.
... Everett's three hits tied his career high.