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HOU@TOR: Pence belts a two-run shot to left field

TORONTO -- Perhaps the most nervous man in the building during the intense final moments of Sunday's game was Astros starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who couldn't sit still while watching the Blue Jays mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Rodriguez, observing from the clubhouse, had seen the bullpen squander the lead after he had thrown eight scoreless innings in his previous start, and with the Astros clinging to a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth and the bases full of Jays on Sunday, the pressure was on.

"The last inning, when I see the bases loaded, I said, 'Oh, my God,'" Rodriguez said. "I was a little bit nervous."

The pressure certainly didn't get to Astros closer Mark Melancon, who got Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill to strand the bases loaded with a groundout to third base and give the Astros a 3-2, edge-of-your-seat win over Jays in the series finale at Rogers Centre.

The Astros, playing in Toronto for the first time in their history, took two of three games in their first Interleague series of the year to finish their road trip with a 2-5 record. It's only their third series win of the season.

Rodriguez (3-3) won for the first time since May 6 by holding the Jays to six hits and two runs -- coming on a pair of solo homers -- and striking out six batters in six innings. He improved to 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his past seven starts.

"He's been pitching so well," said Melancon, who blew the save to spoil Rodriguez's May 17 gem in Atlanta. "When guys give you such a good effort, you want to do that much more for them. Not that you don't want to do that much more for anybody at any time. It gets you riled up. And that's what makes teams roll -- when guys are going well and people feed off that."

The Astros were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, getting a big two-out single from Brett Wallace to push a run across in the third. Hunter Pence provided the rest of the offense with a two-run homer in the fifth off Jays starter Kyle Drabek (3-3) that put the Astros ahead, 3-1.

"There was a lot of tough situations," Pence said. "We made some good defensive plays and had some great pitching by Wandy to get out of those jams early, and Drabek was painting the corners at 95 miles per hour and had a decent curveball that was tough to lay off of. He got me when I had some opportunities to score."

Rodriguez pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced, allowing only a homer to J.P. Arencibia in that span -- a hit that cut the Astros' lead to 3-2. Wilton Lopez worked a scoreless seventh and was pulled in the eighth during the middle of an at-bat.

Lopez had issued a one-out walk to Juan Rivera and had a 2-1 count on Arencibia when Astros manager Brad Mills decided to bring in Melancon in an unusual move. Mills said Lopez's sinker, which is his strength, was staying elevated.

"He had just walked a guy and I wanted him to be able to get that ground ball," Mills said. "The next three pitches seemed to follow as the same pitches he walked the guy on. They were all elevated. I didn't want him to leave one up and brought Mark in and let him go through it."

Melancon needed two pitches to finish off Arencibia with a strikeout, and then struck out Rajai Davis to end the eighth. He recorded two quick outs to start the ninth before things got interesting.

Yunel Escobar reached on an infield hit, and Corey Patterson shot a double inside first base that sent pinch-runner Mike McCoy to third. At that point, it was an easy decision for the Astros to walk Jose Bautista, who leads the Majors in home runs, to load the bases.

Melancon got Hill to ground out to third base to end the game.

"We weren't going to get beat on a pitch that was his pitch," Melancon said. "We were going to go after him, but we were going to be smart with what we throw. I felt comfortable throwing any pitch I have. I just worked with it and was aggressive."

Bautista hit a pair of homers in Saturday's game to help the Jays erase a 4-0 deficit, but he was held in check on Sunday, going 0-for-4. The Blue Jays were impressed with Rodriguez.

"He was throwing his fastball in and out and commanding his breaking ball," Arencibia said. "Everyone knows going into the game that he's going to be a fastball, breaking ball guy. He commanded it. He made pitches when he needed to. Sometimes you have to tip your cap to a guy that does a good job, and he did a good job today."

Astros catcher J.R. Towles went 0-for-4 to extend his hitless streak to 32 at-bats. He nearly had a hit in his final at-bat in the eighth, but Hill made a diving stop behind second base and got the forceout to end the inning.

"There's no doubt [you feel for him], but what a great job he did behind the plate, blocking those balls and keeping balls in front of him," Mills said. "He was doing that all day long. There's no way I can take him out with the lead there. Let him go ahead and hit, and he put a good swing on it." Comments