HOUSTON — Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (3-10) became the first major league starting pitcher in 2010 to reach 10 losses after getting pounded for six earned runs on four hits over three innings of work in Houston’s 9-3 loss to the Texas Rangers Friday night in the opener of the annual Lone Star Series.
The crafty southpaw was sharp early on prior to yielding six runs in the third, which started with a one-out double by opposing starting pitcher Scott Feldman.
Rodriguez walked Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero to force in the first run, thus setting the stage for slugger Josh Hamilton’s two-run single, and rookie Justin Smoak’s two-run double that gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead.
Matt Treanor made it 6-0 with an RBI single to left field.
Astros manager Brad Mills called it an early night for Rodriguez and went to the bullpen after he threw 35 out of 68 pitches for balls.
In his last two starts, Rodriguez has allowed 14 earned runs on 11 hits with nine walks and six strikeouts over eight innings, and it’s become evident that he’s a growing concern for Mills.
“Well, anytime one of the guys struggles and isn’t able to do well, it’s always a concern,” Mills said. “I don’t think in terms of levels of concern. I don’t know how to answer that. There’s issues to address and we’ll move on from there.”
Once Rodriguez departed, the Rangers punished relievers Wesley Wright and Casey Daigle for three runs.
Smoak, who drove in a career-high four runs, connected for his seventh homer, a two-run blast to left off Wright in the fifth. The following inning, Andrus recorded an RBI groundout, giving the Rangers a commanding 9-0 lead.
Overall, Hamilton and Smoak combined to go 5-for-10 with a homer, six RBI, a double, triple and four runs scored.
With his three-hit performance, Hamilton extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
The Astros’ bats awoke in the bottom of the sixth, with Hunter Pence cracking a monstrous RBI double to deep left, which scored Carlos Lee. Geoff Blum drove in a run with a single, while Jason Michaels made it 9-3 with an RBI single.
“It was so good to see the guys swing the bat and run the bases aggressive after falling behind,” Mills said.
Feldman (5-6), who surrendered three earned runs on nine hits with one walk and six strikeouts over seven innings, stepped up with a big-time performance for a red-hot Texas squad that has won six straight games, and nine out of the last 10.
The Rangers currently hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for first place in the AL West.
On the other hand, the Astros have recently become prone to allowing the big inning, as evident with yielding at least four runs in an inning over five of the last six games, which has resulted in a 1-5 record.
“We’re a big league club,” Blum said. “We don’t throw in the towel by any means. We’ve been up against good hitting teams and there’s little margin for error. They have been taking advantage of all our mistakes.”
Houston (26-42) will look to end its two-game skid when the Lone Star Series continues Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, with veteran right-hander Brian Moehler (0-3, 6.32 ERA) getting the starting nod against Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis (6-4, 3.30 ERA).
For the latest Houston Astros news, click on the Subscribe button at the top of the page. Also, be sure to follow Stephen Goff on Facebook and Twitter. To contact Stephen Goff via email, please write [email protected]