By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Miami rookie starter Braxton Garrett has been focused on building his confidence this season.
The 24-year-old’s performance Saturday against the powerful Houston Astros should help give him a boost in that department.
The Marlins got a solid start from Garrett and Jon Berti drove in two runs to help them extend their winning streak to five games with a 5-1 victory over the Astros.
Garrett (1-1) yielded six hits and an unearned run with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings for the win in his second start this season.
“I’ve really gotten better preparing and having a plan going in,” Garrett said. “I really think that’s helped me mentally. It just made me more confident because I just feel like I know what I’m doing. My delivery is in a really good spot right now to where I have a confidence to throw any pitch at any count.”
Manager Don Mattingly is impressed with how Garrett has grown this season.
“We’re seeing a kid that’s just maturing and getting more innings under his belt … he’s just getting to that point where he’s understanding how to use his weapons and just able to handle this better,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins scored three runs in the second inning with the help of a costly error by rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña.
Jesús Aguilar, who homered twice Friday night, singled to open the second inning and advanced to second on a groundout by Miguel Rojas. The error by Peña allowed Nick Fortes to reach and Aguilar to move to third.
Fortes stole second base before Willians Astudillo walked to load the bases. Framber Valdez then walked Bryan De La Cruz to put the Marlins up 1-0. Luke Williams then knocked a single into left field to send Fortes home.
The Marlins made it 3-0 when Astudillo scored on a groundout by Berti.
Valdez (6-3) allowed four hits and four runs — two earned — with three walks in six innings to snap a five-game winning streak.
The Astros outhit the Marlins 8-6 but went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position to lose their third straight. The performance comes a day after Houston was 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position in a 7-4 loss in the series opener.
Houston leads the AL West by 8 1/2 games, but has struggled in the last week, dropping five of its last seven games.
“It just seems like things aren’t going our way, (we’re) not in a good place,” manager Dusty Baker said. “But you’ve got to fight through this. Every team is going to go through it.”
Valdez plunked Jorge Soler to start the third before he moved to third on a ground-rule double by Aguilar. Soler scored to make it 4-0 when Rojas reached on a grounder that left Aguilar out at third.
There were no outs in the fifth when Peña reached on an error by Berti before stealing second base. Houston cut the lead to 4-1 when Peña scored on a two-out double by Jose Altuve.
The Astros had a chance to cut the deficit in the sixth inning when they had runners at first and second with no outs. But Garrett retired Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker before striking out Peña to end the threat.
Another Astros chance came in the seventh when they loaded the bases with no outs. This time Anthony Bass struck out Michael Brantley before Alex Bregman lined into a double play to end the inning.
“Breggy hits that line drive back to the pitcher,” Baker said. “There’s not much he can do about that. Seems like the ball wasn’t really bouncing our way. It hasn’t bounced our way in a while.”
Berti added an RBI single to push the lead to 5-1 in the ninth.
Marlins: 1B Garrett Cooper was placed on the injured list without an injury designation Saturday. Mattingly said Cooper wasn’t feeling good overnight and that he still felt bad before Saturday’s game. … Miami selected the contract of RHP Aneurys Zabala from Double-A Pensacola to take his spot on the roster.
Astros: RHP Jake Odorizzi (left leg tendon strain) felt good after throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday at Minute Maid Park and was expected to do some fielding work on Sunday as he continues his rehabilitation.
Houston’s Justin Verlander (7-2, 2.13 ERA) opposes Edward Cabrera (2-0, 0.75) when the series wraps up Sunday.
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