The Houston Astros have been getting a string of strong starts, but now they’ll have to depend on a pair of rookies to keep that streak alive.
Wandy Rodriguez pitched seven shutout innings in Saturday’s 10-0 win over the Diamondbacks, giving Houston (7-4) its third straight solid outing.
Roy Oswalt threw 8 1-3 shutout innings in the second game of a doubleheader on Thursday, an 8-0 win at San Francisco, and Andy Pettitte gave up two earned runs in six innings Friday but was charged with a 5-1 loss to Arizona (5-6).
However, two pitchers will be making their first major league starts over the next two games for Houston. Nieve starts in the series finale in place of the injured Brandon Backe, who left Thursday’s start and was placed on the 15-day disabled list the following day with a sprained ligament in his right elbow, and Taylor Buchholz takes the mound Monday against Milwaukee.
“Strikes,” manager Phil Garner said when asked what he expects of the two. “Challenge them in the strike zone and make them put the ball in play. Put it on the plate and go off of the plate when you want to.”
Nieve has made three relief appearances this season, his first in the majors, with no record and a 5.40 ERA. He threw a two-thirds of an inning on Thursday without giving up a run or a hit Thursday, but did not factor in the decision.
“He might go three innings or he might go five,” Garner said. “It might be pushing it to ask him to go more than that. He hasn’t been stretched out.”
The 23-year-old right-hander has never faced Arizona.
“It’s my first start, so I’m just trying to do the same things I’ve done in the minors,” Nieve said. “I feel excited, and I’m happy to get a chance. If I do my job, maybe they’ll make the decision (to keep me in the rotation).”
Adam Everett drove in three runs with a homer and a double Saturday for the Astros, who have won four of six. Morgan Ensberg was 3-for-4 with a homer and an RBI double, and Jason Lane added a homer for Houston, which had 15 hits.
Craig Biggio was the only Houston starter without a hit.
Arizona will start Orlando Hernandez, who is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA in his two starts this season, both against Colorado. The Cuban-born right-hander is in his first season with the Diamondbacks after being traded from the Chicago White Sox in a deal for Javier Vazquez.
Hernandez threw 108 pitches and allowed five earned runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings in Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Rockies after giving up just one earned run in five innings in a 4-2 win over Colorado on April 5.
He has never faced the Astros.
“Early in the year, we know with him, he is a guy that throws a lot of pitches,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It only becomes a problem if you have a couple of other guys that do the same thing to you.”