Team effort gives Astros win over Nats
Rodriguez strikes out eight, Lee homers to top Washington
HOUSTON -- So this is what a winning streak feels like.
Wandy Rodriguez held Washington to one run in five innings, and Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence each drove in two runs with one swing of the bat to lead the Astros to a 5-1 win over the Nationals on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have won back-to-back games for the first time since winning four in a row from May 9-13, and they've won home games on consecutive days for the first time since sweeping a three-game series from the Pirates on April 23-25.
"It's nice to see different guys contribute," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "If you could script it, it would be nice to be able to script it like that."
Rodriguez (3-7), who had lost three consecutive starts and five of his past six, held Washington to five hits and three walks and pitched out of a pair of bases-loaded jams. He struck out a season-high eight batters, which helped run his pitch count to 115, also a season high.
"It was nice to see him battle," Mills said. "He used a lot of pitches tonight, more than you'd like to see him pitch. Even more than that, it was how he pitched. He was much more aggressive going after guys. I think he had  pitches and wanted to stay in the game. He had done what he needed to do and got us where we needed to be. It was nice to seem him be aggressive."
In addition to being aggressive, Rodriguez had terrific command of his curveball. He was able to throw it down and inside to beat Nationals starter John Lannan (2-3), who gave up eight hits and five runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings.
"I used it a lot, because I felt like I had a good one and I threw it for a strike," Rodriguez said.
The Astros' bullpen, which has been struggling in the last week, followed Rodriguez by throwing four scoreless innings and allowing just two hits. Wilton Lopez threw an inning, Tim Byrdak worked two-thirds of an inning, Casey Daigle threw 1 1/3 frames and Gustavo Chacin pitched the final inning. The Astros struck out a season-high 13 batters for the second game in a row.
Daigle, who was called up Tuesday when Chris Sampson went on the disabled list, pitched in a Major League game for the first time since May 21, 2006, for Arizona.
"The results were good, and I was really happy to get in there this early," Daigle said. "I didn't know if it was going to happen as quickly as it did, but I went in there to get out of that inning and we were able to score a couple more runs. They ran me back out there, and I felt good."
Lee, who hit into a double play in the first, swatted a two-run homer for the Astros in the third -- his sixth of the season -- and Houston took advantage of a pair of errors on one play by Washington shortstop Ian Desmond to take a 3-1 lead in the sixth.
"I haven't been real, real consistent, but it seems like every time I hit the ball hard it's right at somebody," Lee said. "Today on my first at-bat, I hit the ball good and hit it on the ground and right at somebody. I was fortunate to get a good swing the ball went in the air."
Rodriguez gave up a run in the first inning on an RBI double by Adam Dunn, and he had retired six in a row before the Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the fourth. But Rodriguez struck out Wil Nieves and Lannan.
He stranded the bases loaded again in the fifth, getting Desmond to ground out to shortstop one batter after Josh Willingham reached on catcher's interference.
"It was sure nice to see Wandy come back and get the next guy," Mills said. "He stayed focused and did a good job."
Catcher Humberto Quintero said he thought Willingham's bat struck the laces of his glove as he swung through a two-strike, two-out pitch.
"In that situation, I didn't see it," Rodriguez said. "I was happy when I struck this guy out, and I was going straight to the dugout. I didn't see what was going on behind home plate. When I got [to] the [first-base] line, I see Quintero and he called, 'Wandy!' I said, 'What's going on?' and he said, 'C'mon on over here,' and I said, 'OK.' I never lost my concentration."
Pence ripped a two-run triple to right field in the seventh to stretch the lead to 5-1. Pence is hitting .410 with eight RBIs in his past 10 games, raising his batting average to .277.
"You always want to continue to push, continue to give yourself as many opportunities to win as you can," Pence said. "Fortunately, I was able to get them in there and I was just hoping [center fielder Nyjer Morgan] didn't catch it. The way we pitched and hit all the way up and down was big, and Carlos had the big hit to get us going. Both pitchers pitched good, but we found a way to get it done tonight."
It wasn't quite as dramatic as Tuesday's walk-off win, but the Astros are no in position to be picky.
"It was a crazy game early," Lee said. "Wandy ran into a tough situation a couple of times and we were fortunate to come out of it clean. The way they were pitching, that guy was moving the ball pretty good and keeping us off-balance. To be honest, I didn't know if two runs was going to do it. Our pitchers came out and did great. Wandy went five and the bullpen did a great job."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.