HOUSTON – Having enjoyed overwhelming success against the Astros in five previous starts, Florida starter Anibal Sanchez appeared to be the right man for the job Sunday as the Marlins tried to complete their first series sweep of the season.
But the Astros' bats proved too much for Sanchez and the Marlins to overcome in a 7-1 loss at Minute Maid Park.
Sanchez (0-1), who entered the game 3-0 with a 0.70 ERA against Houston, was rocked for 13 hits and six of the Astros' seven runs in 4 2-3 innings.
"That was a rough outing by Anibal," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "But I'm sure he will come back next time. He'll be fine."
The Marlins had rallied for comeback wins Friday and Saturday but never threatened beyond the first inning, when Logan Morrison's RBI single gave Florida a short-lived 1-0 lead.
"We're not thinking about a sweep; we're thinking about winning every game," Rodriguez said. "Didn't happen today, but (not getting) the sweep is not disappointing.
"It's just that we had a chance today with Anibal Sanchez on the mound, and we didn't come through."
Much of that had to do with Houston left-hander J.A. Happ, who pitched four-hit ball into the eighth inning and drove in two runs with a double to help lift the Astros to their first home victory of the season.
"Happ had his paintbrush out today," Morrison said. "He was doing pretty well, mixing up speeds. He kept us off-balance."
Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Matt Downs also knocked in runs for the Astros, who finished with a season-high 16 hits, six for extra bases.
Happ (1-1) allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings, only two after the Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He put Houston ahead to stay in the fourth with a two-run double off Sanchez, who came in with a 1.54 ERA in two prior starts at Minute Maid Park.
Happ threw 117 pitches and looked strong after straining an oblique muscle in late March. He was shaky in his season debut in Cincinnati last week, giving up seven runs in four innings
The Marlins were quick to jump on him, with Omar Infante doubling to the left-field corner in the first inning and scoring on Morrison's single.
But Astros leadoff hitter Michael Bourn blooped a double down the left-field line in the bottom half of the first. Morrison couldn't make a sliding catch and came up limping. Rodriguez trotted out to check on him, but Morrison stayed in the game.
Pence singled to left to tie it, his third RBI of the series.
"They found holes all day long," Morrison said. "Happ pitched well, but from the very first ball that was placed right down the line to the next ball that was blooped in in front of Mike. I think it was just their day."
Brett Wallace led off the Astros' fourth with an infield single and went to third on Humberto Quintero's two-out double to right. Happ then drove a hard grounder down the left-field line, his second hit of the game, to make it 3-1.
The Astros stretched the lead to 6-1 before Brian Sanches relieved Sanchez in the fifth.
"Everything was working good, but nothing happened right," Anibal Sanchez said. "They took a lot of swings and made a lot of contact. The ball (found) the hole. Nothing good was happening today."
Home plate umpire Jim Joyce ejected Florida reliever Edward Mujica in the seventh, when he hit Hall with a pitch.
"I was trying to tell Jim Joyce that I was trying to throw a fastball because I know him," Mujica said. "And he said: 'No, you're out of here.'"
Hall scored on Quintero's drive off the right-field fence, but Quintero was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple.
Joyce ejected Astros' reliever Aneury Rodriguez in the ninth when he hit Gaby Sanchez with a pitch. Houston manager Brad Mills protested, to no avail. Jeff Fulchino got the final three outs for the Astros.
Anibal Sanchez best summed up the collective feeling in the clubhouse.
"It's one of those days when nothing works out for you; that's how I feel," he said.
NOTES: Edwin Rodriguez is "very optimistic" that injured SS Hanley Ramirez will start Tuesday's game in Atlanta after the team's off day on Monday. Ramirez sustained a bruised left shin on Hall's takeout slide in the seventh inning of Friday's game. "He's a little sore, but he's doing fine," Rodriguez said. ... Struggling Astros 3B Chris Johnson was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, replaced by Downs. Johnson was 1 for 8 in the first two games of the Florida series, and hitting .200 so far this year. Mills said Johnson will be back in the lineup for Monday's game against Chicago.