After scoring only two runs in three previous meetings against the young Milwaukee starter, Houston was able to jump on the Brewers' ace early and often Wednesday night, scoring runs in the first three innings and going on to win, 6-4.
"That's what we are looking for," said Miguel Tejada, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. "Today we did it against one of the best pitchers in the league, and that's what we have to continue to do. That kid can throw the ball pretty good and make it move around." Hunter Pence drove in Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee with a triple over the head of Brewers' center fielder Mike Cameron in the third to put the Astros ahead, 4-0. An inning earlier, Tejada hit his third home run of the season, a solo blast over the left-center-field wall, that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead. Tejada would later add a run-scoring double in the sixth to put Houston up, 5-1.
The five-run cushion would be more than enough for Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez, who gave up one run on six hits and struck out five and drove in a run with a single in the sixth to earn his fifth win of the season.
At one point, Rodriguez retired 10 straight Brewers from the fourth inning to the seventh, and his start to the 2009 campaign has made him a strong candidate for an All-Star Game selection. He has now won four out of his past five outings and has yet to give up more than three runs in any of his starts this season.
"He's an outstanding Major League pitcher," manager Cecil Cooper said. "He's becoming an everyday guy that we thought he could be, and I'm so happy for the performance and for him to go out there and consistently give us that kind of an effort." After last night's loss, Cooper talked about wanting his pitchers to get ahead of hitters and put them on their heels by throwing strike one and strike two early. He got just that from Rodriguez.
"The first five innings I tried to use a lot of fastballs, and I felt good," Rodriguez said. "I knew a few of their guys can hit my breaking ball pretty good, so I tried to get ahead with my fastball."
Rodriguez did make one mistake in the game, and it led to the first home run hit off him in 88 1/3 innings.
Mike Cameron became the first player this season to go deep off Rodriguez, sneaking his eighth home run of the season just inside the left-field foul pole to snap Rodriguez's streak. It was the first long ball Rodriguez had surrendered since Aug. 10, 2008, in Cincinnati and the longest such streak since Juan Castro went 91 innings without giving up a home run from 1989-90.
"I tried to throw a changeup and it ended up right down the middle of the plate and he put a good swing on it," Rodriguez said.
The Brewers made things interesting in the ninth, scoring three times after Astros reliever Alberto Arias loaded the bases with no outs. But Chris Sampson was able to come on and shut the door, getting Bill Hall to strike out swinging to end the game and earn the save.
Things appeared to get off to a good start for the Astros when Michael Bourn singled off Gallardo to lead off the first, but Bourn's hit was nullified because the wrong lineup card was submitted. A lineup card with Kazuo Matsui leading off was presented before the game and because Bourn batted out of order, Matsui was ruled out and Bourn forced to bat again.
The Astros, however, didn't let the confusion bother them, as Bourn walked and came around to score on a Berkman double for 1-0 lead.
"I put [the lineup card] in my pocket today and didn't even check it, and usually I check it everyday, but for some reason I didn't check, and no one else checked it," Cooper said about the gaffe. "There's four people who check it, but today nobody checked it and it's my responsibility. It happened, it's over. It is embarrassing, but we won the game."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less