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Astros' offense backs gem by Rodriguez

Astros' offense backs gem by Rodriguez

HOUSTON -- Two shining stars emerged in the Astros' 7-2 series-clinching win over Texas on Thursday.

Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez threw a five-hit game through eight innings, allowing just one run, while the newest Astros member, second baseman David Newhan, went 3-for-5 in his first start for Houston with a double and two RBIs.

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Rodriguez said he felt "very, very good," finding his grove in the second inning.

"I thought tonight was really all about Wandy. He had it going on tonight," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "He really kind of baffled them. His breaking ball was real good, particularly in the middle and late innings, and he used his fastball effectively early."

Rodriguez fanned nine, including three Rangers twice each.

The Astros finally backed a winning performance by one of their pitchers as every batter in Houston's starting lineup got a hit. They scored seven runs in the first two innings.

Although the Astros stranded eight runners and had a few more good chances to score, Cooper said he was pleased with the offensive performance.

"It's great to get up on top early and get [Rodriguez] a big lead," Newhan said. "I know he's kind of notorious for working quick, and especially with that lead he had he just got out there and had great stuff and great command. With the lead, that made it hard on their hitters. He was able to go right after them with the stuff he had and was able to keep them off balance all night."

The Astros' scoring started with a leadoff single to center by Michael Bourn, followed by walks to Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence came up big with a bases-clearing triple to Tal's Hill in center field in the next at-bat.

"It happened so fast," Pence said. "There were just a lot of runners on and I was trying to get a good pitch to hit, and I happened to get one over the middle. I had kind of nightmares running through my mind after I hit it of several balls I've hit out there as hard as I can that have been caught. I wasn't too sure about anything, but whenever I finally saw it go over his head I was pretty relieved."

Humberto Quintero led off the second inning with a single, and Rodriguez followed with a single to right field. Bourn's sacrifice bunt advanced the two and a double by Newhan scored both.

Newhan reached third on a fielder's choice by Miguel Tejada and scored on a single to third by Berkman, who reached second on a balk. Berkman then scored on a double by Carlos Lee before the inning ended.

"In this game you've got to prove yourself every single night," Newhan said of his performance. "What you did tonight is just tonight, and it's just one of those things you've got to stay with every day."

Cooper said he had hoped Rodriguez could put up another zero in the eighth and try to pitch the whole game, but when Rodriguez gave up a single followed by a triple to score a run, Cooper knew that would be his last inning.

"I told Coop, 'Hey, give me one more inning.' But he said, 'No, you have 105 pitches, that's OK,'" Rodriguez said of the decision.

Despite the loss, the Rangers still took home the Silver Boot. The Astros needed six more runs to take control of the trophy.

The win is Houston's second series victory in a row, a sign the team hopes means it is getting back on track.

"That's the bottom line, we've got to start taking advantage of every series right now," Pence said. "To get two in a row is a pretty good confidence booster."

Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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