He received just enough run support, lasted until late in the night, and most importantly, didn't give up a single run. As a result, the Astros won, 2-0, ending a three-game losing streak before 28,139 Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
"He pitched terrific," manager Cecil Cooper said. "Much, much needed. I tell you what, the young man has really shown a lot this year. He's really grown. He's becoming a big-time pitcher, our most consistent guy by far."
Rodriguez threw 116 pitches over eight innings, holding the Padres to five hits while striking out seven. The outing was a far cry from Rodriguez's last outing, in which he balked, didn't run out a bunt that turned into a double play and was yanked after five innings, despite throwing only 86 pitches. At the time, Cooper reasoned that he simply felt Rodriguez couldn't go any further.
On Friday, Rodriguez showed he's more than capable of handling a long outing. After allowing a double to Luis Rodriguez in the second, he recorded 16 straight outs, ending the run by yielding a two-out single to Nick Hundley in the seventh.
"He looked like he was totally in command," Cooper said. "His curveball was pretty good. He didn't have a whole lot of deep counts. I thought Wandy was efficient with his pitches and that's what you have to do to stay deep in ballgames."
Rodriguez said later he wasn't thinking about Cooper's early hook in his last outing as much as he was focusing on the bullpen's need for a break. By the time he came out after eight, the Astros needed only LaTroy Hawkins to finish out the game.
"Cooper used the bullpen a lot early, and I thought about that, too," Rodriguez said. "I needed to go long, because he used his bullpen a lot. That's what I was thinking in the game."
Rodriguez was aided by a sterling catch by Michael Bourn that saved two runs in the opening frame. With runners on second and third and two outs, Chase Headley sent a long fly ball to the warning track in center, where Bourn tracked it and caught it just before he face-planted on Tal's Hill.
"He didn't get any hits tonight, but he saved two runs," Cooper said. "That's just like getting three or four hits and scoring a bunch of runs. He did a great job tonight."
Said Bourn: "I was trying to track it down. It was hit harder than I thought it was. I kind of was fighting my body a little bit because it was almost directly over my head."
Headley was, understandably, disappointed with the end result.
"I haven't played at every park, but I feel safe to say that there's not a play to be made on that ball," Headley said. "Most of the time, it's a home run when you hit it like that. It's frustrating. You do everything right at the plate, then that happens. I thought it was two runs for sure, if not three."
Bourn held his abdomen area for a few moments after making the catch, but he said later he was not injured on the play.
"It was awkward a little bit, but I'm fine, I'm good," he said.
Hunter Pence, hitting third in place of Lance Berkman, who was scratched with a sore left wrist, was responsible for both Houston runs. He reached on an infield single in the first and struck out in his next two at-bats, but he snuck a base hit through the hole at first base in the fifth to drive in two.
As the creator of the "RallyHawk," a mohawk-style haircut he and Geoff Blum implemented that afternoon, Pence was one of two Astros to log a multihit game. Carlos Lee also had two hits.
"It was Wandy Rodriguez pitching an eight-inning shutout and your pitching doesn't give up a run, and Michael Bourn making Superman catches in the outfield," Pence said. "If those guys weren't on base for me, I wouldn't have knocked them in. We had a good team game today. It feels good to get a win."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.