"It just didn't seem like he had his good command tonight, and he couldn't seem to stop the bleeding in the first inning," manager Cecil Cooper said. "That's two outings in a row, so we've got to try to figure out what the heck is going on."
Miguel Tejada had two doubles and two RBIs and extended his hitting streak to 13 games -- the most by any Astro this season. But that was the lone bright spot on a night when Houston missed out on an opportunity to climb into fifth place in the National League Central.
Rodriguez was not charged with an earned run in his previous start, even though he allowed 12 baserunners (10 hits and two walks) in four innings. On Saturday he was charged for three earned runs in the first inning, when the first five batters of the game reached against him.
Rodriguez walked Nyjer Morgan, and Andy LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske followed with singles -- the latter two driving in a run each. Robinzon Diaz added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
"I think this is my problem, my location," Rodriguez said. "The last two starts, I missed a lot on my location.
"My curve and my changeup -- all my pitches. I lost them all in that first inning."
Rodriguez faced 25 batters, retired only 13 of them, and threw 105 pitches. His past two outings have been his shortest, and he has allowed more runs in each than in any of his previous nine starts.
"He just didn't have a real command, I thought, of his fastball," Cooper said. "I think that was the big key. He did say the balls were a little slick, so maybe that was his problem. But he wasn't real sharp.
"I don't know if he ran out of gas or not, but he had two leadoff walks, and any time you walk a guy, something bad happens. Tonight there were two leadoff walks, and they both scored. That's what happens. He didn't have the good stuff tonight. I could tell that in the first inning."
The Pirates said that they took an aggressive approach against Rodriguez, who fell to 2-4 lifetime at PNC Park.
"We knew he was coming throwing strikes, and we were ready for them," said LaRoche, who went 2-for-4. "We weren't going to wait around until we got two strikes to start swinging. We tried to jump on him early. It worked out.
"A few guys he threw good pitches to. Monroe's ground ball in the hole could have easily been to the shortstop, and my line drive easily could have been to the third baseman. We hit some balls that found some holes the first few innings that led to runs."
The Astros got on the board in the third, when Tejada's second double of the game scored Edwin Maysonet. They cut the deficit to one run on another two-out RBI double -- this one by Jeff Keppinger -- an inning later.
But the Pirates would get both runs back in the fifth with some two-out hits of their own. LaRoche scored on Delwyn Young's single, and Diaz followed with a single that drove in Hinske. That signaled the end of the evening for Rodriguez.
It wasn't until the deficit swelled to five runs -- Pittsburgh scored twice in the eighth off Brandon Backe, who was making his season debut since coming off the disabled list -- that the Astros would score again. They posted two in the ninth after loading the bases against Tom Gorzelanny with two outs. Bucs closer Matt Capps was summoned by manager John Russell, and Capps hit Tejada with a pitch and walked Lance Berkman to make it 7-4.
But Carlos Lee grounded out to second to end the game.
"We had a couple of two-out base hits to score runs, that's how we scored," Cooper said. "We kind of got back into it there in the ninth, but it was just not enough."