Astros-Reds Preview

JEFF BARTL
The Associated PressApril 26, 2012

The Houston Astros don't mind having to move up Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation, especially given how well he's pitched of late.

Rodriguez - nor the Astros - have been as good when visiting the Cincinnati Reds in recent seasons, though.

Houston looks to avoid a fifth loss in the last six games at Great American Ball Park when it begins a three-game series with Cincinnati on Friday night.

With Kyle Weiland experiencing shoulder soreness, manager Brad Mills decided to insert Rodriguez (1-2, 1.42 ERA) in his place. Rodriguez allowed three hits and struck out six in seven innings of a 12-0 win over Los Angeles on Sunday.

The left-hander gave up one run and five hits in seven innings in his previous start April 17, a 1-0 loss to Washington.

"Wandy continues to throw the ball well, and we need it, especially from where he is in the rotation," Mills told the team's official website. "He's a guy that's going to give us a quality start and a chance to pitch deep into games. He's thrown well, and the other guys have fallen in line."

Rodriguez, though, is 0-4 with a 4.44 ERA in his last five starts in Cincinnati, and the Astros (7-12) have lost 17 of the last 22 meetings there.

Houston will be trying to win consecutive games for the first time since winning three straight April 7-9 after beating Milwaukee 7-5 on Wednesday. The Astros have outhit and outscored opponents this season, though Mills said his team has had trouble getting timely hits.

Jose Altuve had a career-high four hits and J.D. Martinez went 3 for 4 with three RBIs to help Houston avoid a three-game sweep by the Brewers.

"Offensively, Altuve, what a day. The four hits, the big RBI single," Mills said. "Then you have Martinez come through with a big two-out single up the middle. Those are some big hits that kind of have been eluding us a little bit."

Jordan Schafer went 1 for 6 and has reached base safely in all 19 games, the most for an Astro to start a season since Ricky Gutierrez did it in the first 23 contests of 1998.

He'll look to extend that streak against Mike Leake (0-2, 6.50 ERA), who is coming off a rough outing.

Leake allowed five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday, and opponents are hitting .310 against him.

"I just wasn't mixing up enough, and I was leaving hittable balls over the plate," Leake told the team's official website.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA in five starts versus Houston, giving up seven runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 10-4 loss May 3 in his most recent outing against the Astros.

The Reds (9-10) had won five of six before closer Sean Marshall gave up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 6-5 loss to San Francisco on Thursday.

Jay Bruce went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer, but he's 1 for 26 with 13 strikeouts off Rodriguez.