Astros 4, Blue Jays 2

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HOUSTON (AP)—Wandy Rodriguez made good use of his escape skills.

Aided by home runs from Willy Taveras, Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane, Rodriguez pitched out of several jams over six-plus shaky innings, and the Houston Astros beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 Friday night in the first game between the franchises.

The Astros made good use of their nine hits and won for the ninth time in 14 games since ending a seven-game losing streak on May 25.

Rodriguez (2-2) gave up nine earned runs in 2 2-3 innings in his last start. He was better on Friday, allowing four hits, although he walked six. He had three strikeouts.

“We don’t preach six walks,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “He did a good job of mixing up his pitches. Each time you go out you learn if your fastball is missing, you use another pitch to get them out. He did that.”

Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his 16th save.

Rodriguez escaped the second inning by giving up one run after he hit Shea Hillenbrand with a pitch and walked Aaron Hill to start the inning. After a double play, Gregg Zaun’s single scored Hillenbrand for a 1-1 tie.

“He was effectively wild and then he’d settle down with men on base and get us out,” Toronto’s Reed Johnson said.

Vernon Wells reached on an infield hit to start Toronto’s fourth but good defense saved Rodriguez. Ensberg started a double play on a grounder by Hillenbrand and then second baseman Craig Biggio dived to his left and threw out Frank Menechino to end the inning.

Rodriguez got himself out of trouble in the fifth after walking the first two batters. He struck out Ted Lilly and Johnson and Alexis Rios flied out. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Rodriguez got John McDonald for the third out on a grounder to first base.

“I used my change more tonight and located better,” Rodriguez said. “The manager asked me to focus on location and that’s what I worked on. In the sixth, I had the bases loaded and I got a change over the plate and a grounder to first to get out of the inning.”

Lilly (3-7), who has lost five of his last seven starts, was behind quickly in the first inning. Taveras hit the first leadoff homer of his career on the game’s fifth pitch.

Taveras missing the last three games after straining his left hamstring last Sunday.

Lilly went six innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs.

“I definitely made more than three mistakes,” Lilly said. “When you make mistakes it will eventually catch up to you. You can only get away with that for a while. The last three games I’ve started we’ve lost. I want to be a guy who can put up a good quality start and may be dominate every once in a while.”

Rodriguez singled in the second, the first RBI hit of his career, as Houston went up 2-1. Jason Lane hit Lilly’s second pitch of the fourth inning for his seventh homer.

Ensberg homered off Lilly on the second pitch of the sixth inning.

Wells’ RBI single brought the Blue Jays within 4-2.

“We had opportunities with men on base but we didn’t take advantage of them,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He threw a lot of off-speed stuff and was mixing it up. He used a changeup and curve to keep us in check.”

Notes

Hill, a rookie third baseman, is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with runners in scoring position. … The Blue Jays are 5-7 in Lilly’s starts. … Houston’s Roger Clemens won two of his Cy Young awards while pitching for Toronto in 1997 and 1998. … Lance Berkman of the Astros has reached base in 25 of his last 27 games. … Biggio needs four hits to reach 2,700 for his career. … The Astros recalled RHP Mike Burns from Triple-A Round Rock and optioned outfielder Todd Self to the Express.

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