HOUSTON -- They stood in opposite corners of the clubhouse and took the blame. Astros starter Kyle Weiland fell on the sword for not getting a key out in the third inning, and third baseman Chris Johnson beat himself up for leaving too many men on base.
Houston's early-season feel-good train, which was punctuated by strong starting pitching and clutch hitting, was derailed in a 6-4 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park that snapped a three-game winning streak and left at least a couple of players kicking themselves.
Weiland, making his first start for the Astros, gave up eight hits, including a two-run homer and a solo homer, in five innings and watched his teammates come up empty time and again with men on base. Houston was 5-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners.
"I think this one's on me," Weiland said. "As the starter, you're supposed to get to the sixth, seventh inning and save your bullpen."
The loss spoiled a night when the Astros celebrated the franchise's 50th birthday by wearing the uniforms worn by the Colt .45s, who began play on April 10, 1962, as an expansion franchise and changed their name to the Astros three years later.
Astros first baseman Carlos Lee was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a pair of walks to reach in all five plate appearances, and center fielder Jordan Schafer was 3-for-5 with a career-high three stolen bases against his former team. J.D. Martinez had a hit to extend his hitting streak to five games to start the season.
Johnson, who went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI, stranded seven. He struck out with the bases loaded to end the third, struck out to strand a pair of runners in the fifth and hit into a double play in the ninth.
"I let them off the hook a little bit," he said. "I had a bad night. This one's on me. I had a bunch of guys on base when I was hitting and didn't come up with the big hit, so I'll take this one."
For Astros manager Brad Mills, the third inning was the difference.
That's when the Braves rallied for three runs after two outs on a single by Brian McCann, an RBI double by Dan Uggla and a two-run homer by Chipper Jones, who was activated before the game to haunt the Astros once again in his last trip to Houston.
"It was just fun to get back in there, contribute and be somewhat of a calming influence," said Jones, who watched the Braves lose their first four games. "This game is not played any differently. You need to go out there and still have all three facets of the game."
Weiland lamented an 0-2 breaking ball to Uggla that was left up in the zone and tagged to left-center, just out of the reach of Schafer, for a double. Tyler Pastornicky took Weiland deep in the fourth for his first career homer, putting Atlanta ahead, 4-1.
"It really came down to one pitch, and that was in the third inning and two outs and the 0-2 to Uggla," Weiland said. "That can't happen. You can't make those mistakes and allow him to get the ball to where it's going to create a big inning. It came down to that pitch and it cost me three runs."
In the bottom of the third, the Astros had runners at first and third with no outs and couldn't capitalize against Braves starter Tommy Hanson (4-0, 1.29 ERA against Houston). After a one-out intentional walk to Lee, Hanson struck out Brian Bogusevic and Johnson swinging to end the inning.
"He threw me lots of offspeed stuff," Johnson said. "He wasn't going to give in and then he threw me a pretty good curveball to get me out with. He was good. You have to give him credit, but I'm tough on myself. I'll come back tomorrow."
Still, the Astros had the potential tying run at the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings against the Braves' vaunted bullpen.
RBI singles by Lee, who narrowly missed a game-tying three-run homer and settled for a single, and Johnson cut the deficit to 5-4 in the eighth, but Chris Snyder struck out to end the inning. Reliever Jonny Venters issued a walk and a hit in the eighth, but struck out the other three batters. The first two Astros batters reached in the ninth against closer Craig Kimbrel before Johnson's double play.
"We kept giving ourselves a chance, there's no doubt, and I'm thrilled to death about that," Mills said. "That's the way these guys are, that's the way they've been all Spring Training and that's the way they are in these five games -- they kept battling to get us back into ballgames."