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Astros-Brewers: Wandy Rodriquez Is an Enigma Wrapped Up in Mediocrity

Here’s the thing about mediocre pitchers like Wandy Rodriguez. Every now and then they’re going to pitch a game that makes you think they’re going to be great. But the rest of the time, they’re going to look awful. And that is the definition of Wandy Rodriguez.

Take yesterday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Looking at his line score, you see that he only gave up two earned runs while striking out six batters. That looks good. Then you delve further and see that he lasted just 5.1 innings, and that while he gave up only three hits he walked six batters; twice he walked Milwaukee’s lead-off hitter, Rickie Weeks, and twice Weeks scored. But most importantly, Rodriguez failed to deliver a quality start, which meant that Cecil Cooper had to go to his overused and mismanaged bullpen once again.

So while Milwaukee’s Manny Para didn’t pitch the best of games, he was able to hold the Astros to two runs while Rodriguez gave up two earned and one unearned run to put the Astros in the hole. And it’s just wrong to keep asking the Astros offense to have to come from behind while Rodriguez is pitching. The hitters can’t always perform on cue, and the bullpen can’t always keep the score close.

Third base coach Ed Romero didn’t help the Astros’ cause. He held Miguel Tejada at third base on a fourth inning Lance Berkman double, but in the fifth, with two out, he sent Mark Loretta home when he should have held him, because Loretta was easily thrown out at the plate.

Cecil Cooper continued with his season-long mismanagement of the bullpen. While it’s doubtful a good bullpen performance would have allowed the Astros to win the game, Doug Brocail’s surrendering of a two-run seventh inning homer to make the score 5-2 sure didn’t help. The thing is, Brocail should not have had to pitch. Chris Sampson came into bail out Wandy Rodriguez in the sixth inning, but for some reason did not return to pitch the seventh. Wesley Wright got in trouble in the seventh, and Brocail came into bail him out, which he was unable to do, giving up the home run instead. Sampson has shown the ability to pitch to more than one batter and to pitch in more than one inning. Why Cooper doesn’t use him as such continues to be a mystery, especially since Doug Brocail just doesn’t seem to have it in him at the moment to pitch effectively.

The loss drops the Astros to 64-63 on the season, and for you fans insisting the Astros are still in the playoff hunt, it dropped them to 8.5 games behind the wild card leading Brewers. The Astros have today off, then play their final ever series in Shea Stadium, taking on the New York Mets for four games starting on Friday. Roy Oswalt (11-8, 4.28) gets the Friday start against Johan Santana (11-7, 2.75). Brandon Backe (7-12, 5.62) goes against John Maine (10-7, 3.82) on Saturday evening. Randy Wolf (8-11, 4.81) matches up against Oliver Perez (9-7, 3.91) on Sunday afternoon, and the series closes out with Brian Moehler (9-4, 3.87) pitching against Mike Pelfrey (11-8, 3.91).

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

If it wasn’t already official, it probably is now. Brad Ausmus has now made it clear that this is his final season as a catcher for the Houston Astros. While not saying he’s retiring, he makes it clear that he won’t be in Houston next year because he wants to be closer to home in San Diego.

I know that many people are tired of Ausmus – yes, his bat does hurt the team – but I’ve always been a fan of how he handles a pitching staff, the way he calls the game and the way he keeps his pitchers calm and under control. Just think about how bad yesterday’s game could have been if Wandy Rodriguez had lost control of his emotions, but Ausmus didn’t let that happen. I’ve never seen anything to indicate that Humberto Quintero or J.R. Towles is capable of this.

****************** The Astros made another stupendous player pick-up yesterday, picking up mediocre infielder Jose Castillo off of waivers from the San Francisco Giants. This supposedly gives Cecil Cooper more flexibility for the use of his players in the infield. And knowing how Cooper managers, I’m not sure I want him having anymore flexibility.

****************** The Astros radio guys were rather down on Wandy Rodriguez yesterday. Which leads me to ask: what took you guys so long? The guy’s mediocre, and that’s just how he pitches. You can call him an enigma if you wish, but to me, that is the wrong term because to me it implies that Rodriguez has the ability to be better than he really is. But he’s just a mediocre pitcher who gets to keep starting because the Astros are desperate for starting pitching. – John Royal


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