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10/23/05 1:40 AM ET

Rodriguez steps up in emergency

Rookie reliever pitches well as sub for injured Clemens

CHICAGO -- Not all of the well-rested relievers in the 101st World Series are in the Chicago bullpen. Houston's Wandy Rodriguez has been waiting for his chance since Oct. 9, when he pitched one inning in the 18-inning National League Division Series clincher against Atlanta.

But the forgotten lefty stepped into the spotlight when the Astros needed him in Game 1 on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

"For a guy who hasn't pitched in a while, what Wandy did was awesome," reliever Chad Qualls said after Rodriguez was summoned to the game in the third inning when Roger Clemens left with a hamstring strain.

Rodriguez wound up getting tagged with the loss due to a home run he gave up to White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, but that big hit was the only major blemish on the rookie's outing.

Not bad for a first World Series appearance.

"I wasn't nervous at all," Rodriguez said through interpreter Carlos Perez. "The weather did affect me a little bit because it was hard for me to grip the ball at times because my hands were very cold, and I think I lost control because of that. I think I pitched well actually, I had one bad pitch, and [Crede's] a good hitter. He connected on it and hit it out of the park. Other than that one bad pitch I felt I did all right."

Rodriguez left an 0-2 fastball up in the zone to Crede, who hit it out of the park to break a three-all tie.

It was the only run Rodriguez allowed on four hits in 3 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out two and was helped out twice by double-play balls.

"Wandy Rodriguez did a pretty good job, but we didn't pitch ahead in the game," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "We gave them way too many opportunities and way too many walks, and we pitched behind in the game."

Garner was right of course, but the important thing is Rodriguez kept the Astros in the game and enabled Garner not to have to use too many members of the bullpen.

"Wandy, Qualls and [Russ] Springer all came in and held down the fort," Houston infielder/outfielder Mike Lamb said. "No doubt they gave us a chance to come back and win the game. We just didn't get it done offensively."

Catcher Brad Ausmus said Rodriguez did an excellent job other than the mistake to Crede.

"That's why we have Wandy here with us," Ausmus said. "He's a starter and can eat up some innings. He did an excellent job. What, one run over three or four innings? He did what we needed him to do."

Rodriguez said he was notified to get loose in the second after Clemens strained his hamstring, so he had enough time to get loose by the time the White Sox came to bat in the third.

The long layoff wasn't a factor either, as Rodriguez said his control was about what he expected it to be considering the conditions.

"Usually when you lose a pitcher of Roger's capability in the second inning, there can be a tendency to panic or whatever, but Wandy came in and did a good job," Lamb said.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.