The 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner looks to again shut down the Houston Astros and give Arizona another solid effort in an opposing ballpark as his team opens a three-game set Friday.
The Diamondbacks (19-17) follow this series with three games apiece in Colorado and Pittsburgh. They have lost six of seven on the road, scoring two runs or fewer in five of those games.
Their only win in that span came with Webb (2-2, 3.75 ERA) starting on April 30, when he allowed one run in seven innings of a 9-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. In three road outings since a poor opening day start at Colorado, Webb has given up three earned runs in 22 innings while striking out 23.
His most recent start came in Arizona on Saturday, however, and he gave up five earned runs for the third time this season in a 6-2 loss to the New York Mets. Webb walked three or more batters for the fifth time in seven appearances, something he did just seven times last season.
It was the fourth time in Webb’s last five appearances he’s been given three runs of support or less. Arizona failed to score during Webb’s six innings Saturday.
“Sometimes when you’re not scoring runs you feel like you have to be perfect and make that perfect pitch all the time,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “It can be frustrating.”
Webb, though, has frustrated the Astros (16-18) throughout his career. The right-hander has made five starts against Houston and not allowed more than two runs in any of them, going 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA. He hasn’t lost in two starts at Minute Maid Park while surrendering two runs and striking out 10 in 13 1-3 innings.
Webb isn’t the only pitcher for whom the Diamondbacks have struggled to score lately. They’ve pushed across no more than four runs in nine consecutive games, totaling 24 in that span while dropping toward the bottom of the NL ranks with 3.9 runs per contest.
Houston’s Lance Berkman, meanwhile, has gotten hot. He’s hit safely in all 10 games this month while batting .406 (13-for-32) with nine RBIs and nine runs. He homered in each of the first three games of the Astros’ four-game set with Cincinnati this week after hitting only one in his previous 25 games.
Houston missed a chance to sweep the Reds with a 9-5 loss Thursday, failing to overcome a seven-run deficit after three innings.
“You’d like to win four, no question,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “We had a lot of momentum going into this game, but they took it away from us early.”
Garner’s club is opening a nine-game homestand, looking to improve upon its 6-8 record at Minute Maid Park.
Houston will start Chris Sampson (3-2, 3.90), hoping he’s fully recovered from sinus problems that hindered his last start, which was pushed back two days due to the illness. Sampson threw only 64 pitches and failed to get out of the fifth inning, giving up three runs and five hits in a 3-1 loss to St. Louis.
“He was absolutely gassed,” Garner said of Sampson, who had allowed two runs or fewer in three of his previous four starts.
The right-hander, who has never faced Arizona, has given up one run and seven hits in 9 1-3 innings at home this season.
Arizona will be without rookie infielder Alberto Callaspo, who was arrested Thursday on charges of assaulting his wife. Callaspo, who’s hitting .215, did not accompany the team to Houston.
“We do not feel that he should be with the team due to the allegations,” Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said.