Blum's bat stings Padres in finale
Astros third baseman knocks in four to back Rodriguez
SAN DIEGO -- The only thing that managed to slow down the Astros' offense on Thursday afternoon was a pesky swarm of bees that overtook left field at PETCO Park and delayed their game against the Padres for nearly an hour in the ninth inning before being removed.The situation created quite a buzz with the players and the fans, but it only put off the inevitable -- a victory for the surging Astros. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez gave Houston another quality start by throwing seven strong innings, and third baseman Geoff Blum homered and had four RBIs to lead the Astros past the Padres, 7-2, in the series finale. "We just know we're playing good baseball right now, and it's not just taking one guy to do it," Blum said. "We're not putting it all on one guy's back and letting him do the work. We're making a team effort out of it, and our pitching staff is doing a great job, and our bullpen has been closing out for us, too." By taking three of four games from the Padres, the Astros have won eight of their last 10 series and six of their past eight games to get within one game of the .500 mark (38-39) for the first time since they were 1-2 on April 8. "The key is to keep winning and win series," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "That's the name of the game. We're winning series and playing good baseball. We've been able to do that quite a bit here lately, and that's the key. "I thought Wandy pitched a fine game. Maybe not as sharp or as crisp as he's been in the past, but he kept the game close and made pitches when he had to make pitches. It was a little bit of a struggle for him, but the run support helped." Rodriguez (7-6) won his second consecutive decision by holding San Diego to seven hits and one run while striking out five. Astros starting pitchers are 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA in the team's last 12 games, during which the Astros are 8-4. "That's what you have to have," said first baseman Lance Berkman, who was 2-for-3 with two walks, two doubles and three runs scored. "You look at the times where we've struggled, and I guarantee you our starters have struggled. "You look at the times we've done well, and it's just like this -- the starters have done great. The reason we have made this run is we've gotten great starting pitching, the bullpen has been pretty solid and we've scored enough runs to win." The Astros wasted no time in getting to Padres starter Kevin Correia, loading the bases with one out in the first inning. Blum slapped a single to right to score Michael Bourn for a 1-0 lead, and Hunter Pence got another run home by beating out a potential double-play ball and hitting into a fielder's choice. "We hustled in that first inning," Cooper said. "Carlos [Lee] beat out an infield hit, and Hunter beat out a double-play ball and kind of kept things alive and got us going, and Blum hit the big home run and kind of opened things up for us." Rodriguez pitched out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the third by getting Adrian Gonzalez to hit into a fielder's choice and Kevin Kouzmanoff to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. "In most cases, you'll have a couple of situations where you can cash in ... [and] that was ours," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We had the opportunities, and we just couldn't get the big hit." Houston took a 3-0 lead in the third on an RBI double by Lee before seizing control in the fifth. Tejada led off the fifth with a single, Berkman followed with a walk and Blum launched a 2-1 pitch high over the wall in right for a three-run homer to make it 6-0. "It's always nice to come through and get hits with guys on base, let alone hit a home run here at PETCO, which is kind of tough sometimes," said Blum, who homered for the first time since May 23. "It was nice to give Wandy a little bit of a lead and let him relax and do his thing." Blum's homer was a rare no-doubt shot at spacious PETCO, traveling an estimated 382 feet down the right-field line. "I knew I got it pretty good," said Blum, who played in San Diego from 2005-07. "If it didn't go out, there were going to be some serious issues with the ballpark configuration. It was a slider hung out over the middle of the plate, and he had thrown me a few in the at-bats previous, so I had seen it. I'm sure he wanted to get it down and in a little bit more." The only drama in the latter innings was how long the game was going to be delayed by bees. The Padres scored a run in the ninth off Tim Byrdak following the 52-minute break, but the Astros weren't going to let anyone -- or anything -- ruin their day. "For the first day in a long time, we got a big, big hit to break things open, and that was good," Cooper said.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.