The skid is over at two, and the Pirates look to be just what the doctor ordered. In the Astros first game against the traditional cellar dweller, Wandy and the relief efforts of Wilton Lopez, Fernando Abad, and Mark Melancon led to a Houston victory. After Lyon’s blown save on Wednesday and Thursday’s embarrassing performance by Figueroa, the scoreless 8th and 9th Pittsburgh frames bring more relief than words can describe. Melancon’s perfect 9th inning led to his first save in 2011 as well as his first in his newly tapped closer role. Mills has yet to truly give Melancon the closer title, but appearances like Friday’s surely help his cause.
Wandy Rodriguez turned in a second consecutive starting performance which is encouraging to Astro fans. In his first six starts, Wandy had alternated great outings with lack luster outings, and tonight’s 7IP/2ER/5H showing was just the boost our confidence needed in the budding ace. Previous years were mired with weak pre All-Star break splits for the Magic Wand, but if he can get started earlier in the season like he is this year, then we may have stumbled upon an ace. By avoiding the “big inning”, Rodriguez was able to notch his second win of the 2011 season.
Pence drove in a couple of runs, one of which in the first and the second on a double in the 8th to tie the game, and Lee drove in the other to put the Astros ahead for good. This was Lee’s first game back since the injury he sustained on Sunday against the Cardinals, and his clutch RBI single in the 8th acts as a good sign to show he is ready to play. Lee’s start at first allowed Jason Bourgeois to start in left, and he has yet to disappoint. Collecting 3 hits in 3 of his 6 starts, Bourgeois is showing why he should get looked at as a starter for the Astros, if not another team. He is second in the majors in steals to Michael Bourn on a season in which he started as a reserve. Batting over .400, Bourgeois got the nod to lead off the lineup and scored the game’s first run.
All in all, small ball in the first and clutch hitting in the eighth led to Astro starter’s seventh win on the year. Two innings of scoreless work from the bullpen may not seem like much, but it’s nights like tonight that build confidence and boost performance of the team.
Saturday’s game has Bud Norris (2-1) pitted against Charlie Morton (3-1) in a 6:05 CST game. The Stros have won all four of Norris’s past starts, and he has allowed only 3 runs in those four starts. Morton is coming off of a win against Colorado and gives up walks as if they were going out of style, so patient bats should lead to scoring opportunities.