A sign of an elite pitcher is the ability to keep his team in a game when he’s not performing at his best.
Wandy Rodriguez is starting to show those signs.
The Houston left-hander looks to lead the Astros to their third straight win overall and 11th in a row in Cincinnati on Tuesday night when they take on the Reds in the second of a three-game set.
Rodriguez (1-2, 1.80 ERA), who has allowed one run or fewer in three of four starts, makes his second appearance against Cincinnati (10-9) this season. On April 18, he held the Reds to just two hits in seven innings in a 7-0 win at Minute Maid Park. The 30-year-old southpaw tied a career high with 10 strikeouts in that victory.
“Wandy has been as good as any pitcher in the game right now,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said after that win. “He is really throwing the ball well.”
He wasn’t in Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Rodriguez gave up just one run and five hits in six innings.
“I’d say he’s growing up, I think,” Cooper said following Rodriguez’s 105-pitch outing. “I think he’s becoming a pitcher because I don’t think he had his good stuff tonight … he couldn’t really, really locate early with his fastball, but he stayed in the game. That to me shows he’s making giant strides with what we want him to do.”
If Houston (8-12) can continue its dominance in Cincinnati, Rodriguez should have a great opportunity at evening his win-loss record. The Astros opened their eight-game trip Monday with a 4-1 win over the Reds. Houston, which dropped three of four at home earlier this month to the Reds, are 31-15-1 at Great American Ball Park.
Lance Berkman continued his hot hitting in the Queen City with a home run in Monday’s victory. Berkman, who broke his 0-for-16 slide with a sixth-inning solo shot, is batting .364 with 20 home runs and 50 RBIs in 42 career games at Great American Ball Park. His 20 homers at the six-year-old park are the most by a visiting player.
“It’s kind of funny,” Berkman said. “It seems that even when I’m struggling, I start feeling better and I look up at the schedule and we have a trip in here. It’s weird how that happens.”
Berkman is batting .244 (11-for-45) with six homers lifetime against Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Aaron Harang, who has struggled lately versus the Astros.
After going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts versus Houston in 2008, the Cincinnati right-hander gave up five runs and 10 hits while losing to Rodriguez.
“It was frustrating,” said Harang, 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA. “When you make good pitches and don’t get outs, it’s that way. It was just one of those nights. You can’t do anything about it.”
In his last start, Harang yielded an unearned run and seven hits in Thursday’s 7-1 victory at the Chicago Cubs.
Joey Votto went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in Monday’s loss to improve his batting average to .378. He has five hits in 14 career at-bats versus Rodriguez.
Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion looks to break out of his 1-for-28 slide. He is 5-for-23 with two home runs and five RBIs lifetime against Rodriguez.
Miguel Tejada, who is hitting .325, snapped an 0-for-13 stretch with Monday’s 3-for-4 effort. He is batting .450 (9-for-20) in five games against the Reds this season.