CINCINNATI -- Astros manager Cecil Cooper fell firmly on the sword, saying he shouldn't have sent left-handed starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez back to the mound to start the seventh inning Monday night against the Reds. Rodriguez, who opted not to return for another inning of work in his previous start Wednesday, carried a shutout through six innings against the Reds, but he had thrown 101 pitches and had obviously caused his manager to have some concern about his stamina. Rodriguez allowed the first two batters he faced in the seventh to reach, and pinch-hitter Jay Bruce later drove them home with a two-run single off Wesley Wright to send the Reds to a 3-1 victory over the Astros at Great American Ball Park.
"Wandy deserved a better fate than he received," Cooper said. "I take the blame for that. He was close to 100 pitches, and my first thought was to take him out, and I let him stay. You can't let your starter lose the game there. I take the heat for whatever it is. But I thought he pitched well enough to win the game, and he should have." Rodriguez allowed two runs and five hits and struck out eight batters in six-plus innings. In his past six starts, he's given up only eight earned runs in 41 innings, but he has only one win to show for it, because of his team's offensive struggles. The Astros, who have lost 20 of their past 26 road games, managed only six hits and one run in seven innings against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (13-12). "You just don't know what he's going to start you off with," said Astros center fielder Michael Bourn, who went 2-for-4. "You just don't know how his sequence of pitches is going to be or what he's going to throw. You have to be looking for the ball in an area and be ready to hit it. He doesn't pitch the same sequence every time." Rodriguez (13-10) cruised through six innings, giving up only four hits. He was given a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Carlos Lee hit a double into the gap in right-center that scored Lance Berkman, who hit a broken-bat single to left field with two outs. In his previous start against Atlanta, Rodriguez was pulled because of shoulder fatigue after throwing seven innings and allowing three hits and one run. But working on a shutout against the Reds, Cooper sent him to the mound to start the seventh. "I don't have control of that," Rodriguez said. "He says go, and I go and pitch, and that's what I do." Rodriguez walked Scott Rolen and gave up a double to Jonny Gomes to put runners at second and third with no outs. Sammy Gervacio replaced Rodriguez and struck out a batter before issuing an intentional walk to load the bases. Bruce, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game and was making his first plate appearance since July 11, bounced the second pitch from Wright into right field for a two-run single to gave the Reds the lead, 2-1. "That's just how baseball is," Wright said. "It's not about how hard you hit it, but sometimes it's where you hit it. He was able to find a hole, and it's just a tough break. I wish I could have held the lead or kept it closer. We were right there, in the game, but it was a tough break. It's been a tough stretch." Bruce's ball rolled between Berkman at first and second baseman Kazuo Matsui. "Any time you hit a ball like that, I'm not sure you think it's going through," Bruce said. "Once I saw it was going to make it, it was a pretty good feeling." Houston was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but it did hit some balls hard. Hunter Pence flied out to deep center twice with runners on base, and Lee crushed a pitch in the eighth that wound up with an inning-ending fly ball to the warning track in center. "We just hit balls to the wrong part of the ballpark, and they didn't go," Cooper said. "Carlos hit two balls to center pretty good, and so did Hunter. [If] we hit the ball to left and maybe to right, it may be different." Brandon Phillips hit a solo homer off Jeff Fulchino in the eighth to make it 3-1, and Francisco Cordero needed only six pitches to throw a 1-2-3 ninth and secure his 35th save for a team that has won 65 games. "We had a chance at the end, but we didn't come through," Bourn said. "[Arroyo] was pretty good tonight, but Wandy did good, too. We had some good pitching, and we just weren't on like we are normally from an offensive standpoint."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.