It’s already becoming very apparent that the Houston Astros are going to need good starting pitching to be competitive. That’s exactly what Wandy Rodriguez(notes) has provided against the Chicago Cubs.
Rodriguez has lost his first two starts after a breakout 2009, but he’ll look to continue his recent string of stellar outings against the Cubs and help the Astros capture their first series Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Houston (2-9) scored 14 runs in dropping its first eight games, and although it’s won two of three, it’s hardly lit up the scoreboard with 11 runs in that stretch.
The common theme in the Astros’ two victories has been a solid outing from their starter. Bud Norris(notes) allowed one unearned run and struck out nine over five innings in a 5-1 win at St. Louis on Thursday, and after Felipe Paulino(notes) struggled Friday in losing 7-2 to the Cubs (5-6), Roy Oswalt(notes) tossed seven shutout innings in Saturday’s 4-3 victory.
Houston now turns to Rodriguez (0-2, 6.10 ERA), and his recent track record against the Cubs couldn’t be much more impressive. In his last seven starts versus Chicago, he’s 2-0 with a 2.17 ERA and has lasted at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer in six of those outings.
Through two starts in 2010, though, Rodriguez hasn’t performed like the pitcher that had the 12th-best ERA in the majors (3.02) in 2009. Rodriguez gave up three runs in six innings but struggled with his control in a 3-0 loss to San Francisco on April 6, then allowed four runs in 4 1-3 innings Monday in a 5-0 defeat at St. Louis.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa still saw plenty of positives out of that start.
“We beat an excellent starting pitcher,” La Russa told the Astros’ official website. “He’s got so many weapons. He’s got great command. He’s got a lot of pop. He throws probably as effective a breaking ball as any right- or left-hander in the league, strike one or chase.”
Ryan Dempster(notes) (1-0, 4.38) gets the ball for the Cubs looking for improvement from his first start at Wrigley Field. The right-hander earned a 9-5 win over Milwaukee on Monday but allowed five runs and seven hits while walking four in 6 1-3 innings.
“It’s easy when your team goes out there and scores that many runs,” Dempster told the Cubs’ official website. “I made it a little bit harder than it had to be. It was moreso fastball command. I wasn’t able to get ahead of too many guys.”
Dempster is 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA in seven starts against Houston over the past two seasons.
Astros outfielders Carlos Lee(notes) (.116) and Hunter Pence(notes) (.122) are struggling in the early going, but each has had some success against Dempster. Lee is 8 for 24 with a homer, while Hunter Pence is 8 for 23 and has taken Dempster deep twice.