SAN DIEGO -- With a handful of scouts on hand to watch him pitch, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez zipped through three innings on Wednesday afternoon with the kind of stuff that made you wonder if he was in store for a big day.
Rodriguez, who's being shopped by the Astros as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears, needed only 28 pitches to mow down the first nine hitters in the Padres' lineup before things completely turned on him in the fourth inning.
The first six hitters Rodriguez faced in the fourth inning all reached base, and five of them scored to allow San Diego to jump out to a big lead and send Houston to its 15th loss in the past 17 games, 8-4, at Petco Park.
Matt Downs, starting at first base, had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with his first career multi-homer game, driving in all four Houston runs. Downs has three homers this season against Padres starter Clayton Richard, who pitched 8 1/3 innings.
"I don't know if I've ever done that since Little League, to be honest with you," Downs said. "I've never had a multi-homer game. I always say, 'If I hit one early in the game, get me out of there, because I'm not good the rest of the day.' It is a great accomplishment, I guess for me, but still, we lost, 8-4."
Rodriguez (7-7) wasn't hit hard in the fourth, but a pair of walks proved to be costly. He gave up a ground-ball single to Alexi Amarista to start the inning before walking Logan Forsythe and giving up an infield hit to Chase Headley that loaded the bases.
Amarista scored on a wild pitch, and Rodriguez walked Carlos Quentin to load the bases again. Chris Denorfia hit a two-run single and Yonder Alonso added a two-run double to give the Padres a five-run lead.
Alonso is hitting .533 in the first three games of the series.
"I was looking for a ground ball, and they hit it through the hole," Rodriguez said. "I don't know. There's nothing I can say about that. I wanted to try to get a double play, because I had runners on base, and I got a lot of ground balls, but they found the hole."
Rodriguez has gone 3-4 with a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 starts after going 4-4 with a 2.14 ERA in his first 10 this season.
"Whether it's a walk, whether it's a big knock that gives up a couple runs, being able to stop those innings and not allowing them to continue [is key for Rodriguez]," manager Brad Mills said.
Rodriguez retired the final three hitters in the fourth but was pulled from the game after throwing only 66 pitches. That snapped his streak of throwing at least five innings in 48 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the National League.
Mills pinch-hit for Rodriguez with two outs in the fifth and a runner at second base, but Brian Bogusevic struck out.
"Our opportunities in the last week or so have been a little slim," Mills said. "Let's try to score and see if we can get on the board real quick."
Rodriguez was surprised to come out of the game so early.
"Yeah, I think a lot about that, but I don't know why I [came] out of the game in that situation," Rodriguez said. "I felt good. I didn't throw a lot of pitches. I didn't ask Mills. He just said I'm out of the game. I was surprised, yeah."
The early exit put the Astros' bullpen to work, with Enerio Del Rosario allowing three hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings and Brandon Lyon allowing one run in 1 2/3 innings as the Padres built a five-run lead through seven innings.
"You want to be able to stop it as best you can, and that was too bad," Mills said. "They kept swinging the bat pretty well and they were able to put a couple good swings on some things."
The Astros were trailing, 6-0, before Downs launched a three-run homer to left field to cut the lead in half in the sixth inning. Downs also homered to left field with no one on base in the ninth, and has driven in all five runs the Astros have scored against Richard in 15 1/3 innings this season.
"[Richard] hit [an RBI] double [in the sixth] and got on second and started laughing and said, 'You can't just let me cruise through a game?'" Downs said. "I just started laughing. It just seems like when I get in there, he makes one mistake a game, and it just happens to be a ball in the zone for me."
The Astros committed three errors, including throwing errors by Del Rosario and Downs in the fifth inning that allowed Headley to score from first base after a single. The three gaffes are as many errors as the Astros had committed in their previous nine games combined.