BALTIMORE -- Doug Brocail was in a better mood on Wednesday afternoon than he was after Tuesday's game, which included a spirited exchange between the right-hander and home-plate umpire Ed Hickox, and ended with a somewhat deflating loss to the Orioles.

Asked why his left hand was wrapped in ice, Brocail playfully played dumb.

"Bunting practice," Brocail said. "I got hit in the hand."

It's more likely he took out his frustrations on Tuesday on a wall or water cooler, or something of equally solid substance, but the veteran reliever wouldn't reveal the source of his swollen left hand. Whatever damage was done apparently won't prevent him from pitching, so in the right-hander's eyes, it's a non-issue.

"It doesn't even matter," he said.

But the Astros' alarming string of losses certainly does. Since reaching their peak on May 27, when they were seven games over .500 and 1 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central, the Astros were 3-15 heading into Wednesday's game in Baltimore, five games under .500 and in fifth place in the division, 12 games off the pace.

"It's Murphy's Law," Brocail said. "Anything that can go wrong is going wrong. We've put in different lineups. We've run, we haven't run. We score six, we give up seven. We score five, we give up six."

Brocail was signed last winter partly to add leadership to the team -- the pitching staff in particular. Asked what words of wisdom he's offered the younger pitchers, Brocail said simply they need to be reminded to keep "picking each other up."

"At one point, it's going to click back to where it was," Brocail said. "There's not a lot to say on the subject, because we're not getting the job done. When we get the job done, obviously, we'll start winning. You want to point a finger, point it at us. We're the ones on the mound, we're the ones swinging the bat."