Astros 6, Pirates 2

Wandy Rodriguez insists he hasn’t changed anything over his last

few starts. He’s just found his pointpoint location.

The 31-year-old left-hander struck out 10 and allowed four

singles in seven innings and the Astros snapped a three-game losing

streak with a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday

night.

Rodriguez (6-10) has won his last three starts, the longest

winning streak by an Astro this season. He’s allowed only two

earned runs in those starts for a 0.90 ERA.

“Nothing different,” he said. “I try to throw the ball where

I want, and I just throw my pitches. I’m the same. I’ve felt great

the last three starts. When I have good command on my breaking ball

and fastball, you can see a lot of games like this.”

The Astros tabbed him as the No. 2 starter behind ace Roy Oswalt

coming into the season, hoping he could improve on last year’s

14-12 record. But Rodriguez lost four of his first five decisions

and dropped six of seven between May and June before starting his

current streak.

Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman homered and Michael Bourn scored

two runs for the Astros, who’ve won all four meetings with the

Pirates this season.

Rodriguez finished one strikeout shy of his career high, which

he last reached almost exactly a year ago against Pittsburgh. He

gave up two walks, both in the first inning, and reached

double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time in his career.

“We knew that he had the ability to throw like that,” manager

Brad Mills said. “He threw like this several times last year. He’s

just built good start after good start after good start, and that’s

what we were looking for, to be able to put it all together.”

The Astros staked Rodriguez to a 2-0 lead in the first inning

off Pittsburgh starter Brad Lincoln (1-3), a rookie who played at

the University of Houston.

Bourn, selected to the NL All-Star team by manager Charlie

Manuel, led off with an infield single and stole second. He

advanced on Jeff Keppinger’s flyout and scored on Berkman’s

groundout.

Lee followed with a solo home run to left center, his 11th of

the season.

Bourn singled and scored again in the third, rounding the bases

on Keppinger’s double off the left-field scoreboard. Berkman then

homered into the left-field balcony, just inside the foul pole, for

a 5-0 lead.

Lincoln allowed five runs on seven hits in his sixth career

major-league start. He played in front of about 200 friends and

family, but said that added pressure didn’t affect his

performance.

“I wasn’t really that emotional,” Lincoln said. “I had some

butterflies in the first inning, but I just couldn’t get

comfortable out there, couldn’t find the strike zone with my

fastball.”

Rodriguez, meanwhile, retired eight hitters in a row – three on

strikeouts – after the two walks in the first inning.

Andrew McCutchen led off the fourth with a single, Pittsburgh’s

first hit. McCutchen eventually scored on Ryan Doumit’s single to

left. Rodriguez escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam later in the

inning, getting Bobby Crosby to pop up before striking out

Lincoln.

Rodriguez was sharp again in the sixth, striking out Pedro

Alvarez and Doumit. He fanned Crosby and pinch hitter Andy LaRoche

in the seventh to set a new season high.

“He’s been throwing the ball well, throwing the ball with

confidence,” Mills said. “It’s just being able to put into play

and bringing to the game what they’ve been working on, and then

he’s been able to build some confidence with that.”

The Astros added another run in the seventh off Javier Lopez.

Garrett Jones drove in a run with a single in the eighth against

left-hander Tim Byrdak.

Houston third baseman Chris Johnson made a diving catch to rob

Lastings Milledge of a hit in the ninth.

NOTES: Rodriguez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of

17 starts. … Astros general manager Ed Wade said IF Geoff Blum

will undergo arthroscopic elbow surgery on Wednesday. Blum said he

felt his elbow pop while putting on his shirt following Thursday

night’s game in San Diego. … Pirates 1B Steve Pearce will get an

injection on Wednesday for the tendinitis in his left knee. Pearce

has been on the disabled list since late May. The Pirates say

Pearce will be inactive for 7-10 days after the injection, and is

not expected to play again until August. General manager Neal

Huntington said the injection was the best option to treat the

injury, but surgery remains a possibility.