CINCINNATI -- For the most part, pitching hasn't been the issue for the Astros this season.That didn't hold true Friday. Wandy Rodriguez was pulled after just 3 1/3 innings, and the Astros bullpen didn't fare much better as they fell to the Reds, 15-6, at Great American Ball Park. "Well, it got out of hand in a hurry," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "They got some big knocks, and we got some runners on early and weren't really able to put a big one together. It would have been nice to put a crooked number up ourselves early." The Astros hoped to get a strong outing from Rodriguez to help save the bullpen. With Bud Norris on the disabled list, Mills expects Brian Moehler to only pitch three or four innings in his first start of the year on Saturday. But the pitching staff's 4.10 ERA entering the game took a beating at the hands of the Reds, early and often. After three consecutive quality starts in Milwaukee during the week, things fell apart in the Astros' eighth straight loss at Great American Ball Park. "We're trying to save that bullpen as much as we can," Mills said. "Our pitching's been absolutely outstanding, and now if we try to extend those guys, we're kind of leaving ourselves open a little bit to not being able to cover ourselves for tomorrow or the next day." Rodriguez fell behind in counts and was forced to use his fastball. The Reds took advantage, and the Astros left-hander was left searching for answers with a struggling curve ball. "I don't have my curve right now [at] 100 percent," Rodriguez said. "I don't know what happened with my breaking [ball]." Rodriguez was chased from the game with one out in the fourth inning, leaving the bases loaded for Gustavo Chacin -- who was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock earlier in the day. Chacin immediately allowed a two-run single to Brandon Phillips, and the rout was on. Two innings later, Jeff Fulchino and Tim Byrdak allowed three runs each in the sixth. Meanwhile, the Astros managed just two runs off Reds starter Sam LeCure -- who was making his Major League debut -- and by the time the offense added runs to the board against the Reds' bullpen, the margin was already too great to mount a comeback. "The innings that I gave up runs, we came back and put up a crooked number that same inning," LeCure said. "It makes you feel pretty good." The 16 Reds runs were six more than the Astros have allowed in a game all season, and with the loss, the Astros dropped to 16-32 -- the worst start in franchise history. With Rodriguez gone early and four relievers making appearances, Mills even turned to a position player to pitch in the eighth inning. Backup catcher Kevin Cash took the mound and allowed one run on three hits. Rodriguez finished with 86 pitches, giving up eight hits and eight runs with five strikeouts and two walks. His ERA jumped from 4.33 to 5.37, and he fell to 2-7 for the season. After the game, all he could say was he needed more work. "I think I need to work more," Rodriguez said. "Work more on my location, work more on my breaking ball, because I don't have a good one right now." Despite the ominous start to the series in Cincinnati, Cash is at least holding out hope that one bad night can change into something better. "Any loss kind of just keeps piling up a little bit," Cash said. "At the same time, you can seize a big loss like this and maybe the guys come in tomorrow and flip a switch, you never know."
Matt Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.