Wandy touched up early in Astros' loss
After cruising through first two innings, lefty stumbles in third
HOUSTON -- Through two innings Friday, Wandy Rodriguez looked like his 2009 self. He had hitters guessing and looked as if his domination against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park would continue.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Yet any hope of a return to last season's form by Rodriguez ended in the third. The Rangers roughed him up for six runs, and that was the difference in a 9-3 loss in the opener of the Lone Star Series. With the defeat, Rodriguez, (3-10) became the first 10-game loser in the Majors."Today, I felt like I could win that game," Rodriguez said. "My command hurt my pitching today, because I tried to throw some quality pitches and I made some other pitch." Before Friday's start, Rodriguez was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA against the Rangers at home. And he showed that success in the second, when he struck out two of the three batters he faced. He was getting ahead of hitters and had no trouble getting quick outs. "Wandy came out of the game throwing it extremely well," manager Brad Mills said. "He was hitting his spots. After the pitcher got that double, things fell apart." That hit Rangers starter Scott Feldman ripped down the line with one out in the third inning was the beginning of the end for Rodriguez. From there, he walked Elvis Andrus to put two runners on. After Michael Young grounded out on a slow roller that advanced the runners, Rodriguez was close to escaping the jam unscathed. But then the free passes began. He walked Ian Kinsler to load the bases, then Vladimir Guerrero on four pitches to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Rodriguez began to throw strikes after the pair of walks, but they were strikes that the Rangers had no problem connecting on. Josh Hamilton drove in two runs on a single, and Justin Smoak added two more with a double to make it 5-0. Texas tacked on one more run before the inning ended. "This was the first time we faced him, and we were trying to figure out what he was going to do," Hamilton said. "The first at-bat, he threw me a lot of breaking balls. The second at-bat, he threw me a lot of fastballs. The biggest thing is we made him throw strikes." That inning would be the last for Rodriguez, who allowed six runs on four hits and four walks. Mills said skipping Rodriguez's turn in the rotation was unlikely. "There are some issues we talked about that we're going to address in the coming days," Mills said. "Mechanics is one of them, and some different scenarios, too." Once Rodriguez left, the Rangers added to their total, but Feldman didn't need it. While he wasn't perfect, Feldman managed to escape the troubles that Rodriguez could not. The Astros left two runners on base in the first and third innings and had Hunter Pence at third with one out in the fourth. Unlike the Rangers, however, the Astros couldn't deliver. And when Houston finally delivered in the sixth with three runs, it was too late. "They came back and had some good, solid at-bats," Mills said. "That's good to see." It would be even better for the Astros to see Rodriguez pitch like it was 2009.
Steve Gartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.