Astros 7, Rangers 0

Wandy Rodriguez pitched so well Thursday night, the struggling

Houston Astros were able to relax and have some fun.

Jason Michaels homered and drove in three runs and Rodriguez and

three relievers combined on a four-hitter as the Astros snapped an

eight-game home losing streak with a 7-0 win over the Texas

Rangers.

”We needed a win because we’ve had some bad games and tonight

we feel great … because we win,” Rodriguez said.

Carlos Lee homered for the second straight day in the fourth

inning and Chris Johnson drove in two runs in Houston’s four-run

fifth as the Astros won at Minute Maid Park for the first time

since June 13.

Michaels drove in a run in the fifth before pushing the lead to

7-0 with his two-run shot to left in the seventh.

”It was a good win all the way around,” said Michaels, who

took advantage of a rare start.

Rodriguez (6-4) allowed four hits and struck out four in seven

innings. David Carpenter pitched a perfect eighth in his major

league debut after being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on

Wednesday. Fernando Abad and Mark Melancon combined on a scoreless

ninth.

”To have a game like we did tonight was huge for this team,”

Houston’s Clint Barmes said. ”It’s definitely been a grind this

year. Wandy throwing the ball as well as he did was huge for us and

it was a lot of fun for us to swing the bats and score some

runs.”

Elvis Andrus had two hits for the Rangers in his return after

missing the last four games with a sprained left wrist.

”Before I got hurt, I was swinging the ball pretty good, so

today it was really good for me that my timing was still there,”

he said.

Texas starter Matt Harrison (6-7) yielded seven hits and five

runs in six innings.

Harrison plunked Michael Bourn on the right forearm with one out

in the fifth inning before he advanced to second on a groundout by

Angel Sanchez. Bourn scored to make it 2-0 before Harrison

intentionally walked Lee.

A ground-rule RBI double by Michaels stretched the lead to 3-0.

The ball bounced just fair in the right field corner before sailing

into the stands and pinging off the tray of a snow cone vendor and

back onto the field.

Johnson followed with a two-run single to shallow center to make

it 5-0. Harrison finally got out of the inning when Barmes grounded

into a forceout.

Hunter Pence singled off Dave Bush with no outs in the seventh

inning before the homer by Michaels with one out.

The only real trouble for Rodriguez came in the third

inning.

He walked Kinsler with two outs before a single by Andrus to

left. Josh Hamilton walked, but Rodriguez escaped the bases-loaded

jam when Pence caught a long fly ball hit by Adrian Beltre.

”I worked a lot in that inning,” Rodriguez said. ”I tried to

make a good pitch to Beltre and he got the fly ball to right field

and finished the inning.”

Texas manager Ron Washington praised the work of Rodriguez.

”Early in the game, we had him on the ropes, and we couldn’t

get the hit,” Washington said. ”He moved his fastball around …

he had a really good breaking ball. He had a couple good changeups,

too. What he did to us tonight, he’s capable of doing. We certainly

had some chances, but we didn’t cash them in.”

He retired six straight after that before Andrus walked to start

the sixth inning. He still faced the minimum in that inning thanks

to Houston turning a double play. David Murphy singled with one out

in the seventh but Houston turned another double play to end that

inning.

”Those double plays were huge,” Houston manager Brad Mills

said. ”They kept Wandy from getting in more trouble.”

Hamilton robbed the Astros of hits with two nifty catches in the

seventh inning. He made a leaping catch near the wall in left on a

ball hit by Lee before diving to snag a ball hit by Johnson later

in the inning. He turned and smiled while still on the ground

before getting up and removing grass that got stuck in his belt

during the second catch.

Houston’s victory broke a string of eight straight wins at

Minute Maid Park for the Rangers.

NOTES: Houston 2B Jeff Keppinger was scratched about 90 minutes

before Thursday’s game with nausea. He was replaced in the lineup

by Sanchez. … Astros reliever Brandon Lyon had surgery on

Thursday to repair the detachment of his right biceps tendon and

repair his labrum. He is expected to miss the rest of the season.

… Texas C/1B Mike Napoli, on the DL with a strained left oblique

muscle, began a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Round Rock

on Thursday. He is expected to play four games there. … J.R.

Towles started at catcher for the first time since leaving Friday’s

game with a gash on his chin that required 11 stitches.

Kristie Rieken can be reached at

http://twitter.com/kristieAP