Before Wandy gets in a groove, Giants pounce

Before Wandy gets in a groove, Giants pounce

Before Wandy gets in a groove, Giants pounce
SAN FRANCISCO -- Wandy Rodriguez was victimized by some bad luck and some bad execution, but perhaps his biggest problem on Friday night was a bit of bad judgment.

The Astros left-hander admitted he grooved a fastball to Buster Posey, and the Giants catcher belted it 448 feet over the center-field fence, for a two-run homer. That alone was enough in the Astros' 5-1 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park that opened the second half of the season.

Afterward, Rodriguez had a surprising explanation for his choice of a pitch to the Giants cleanup hitter in the first inning.

"He got ahead 2-0 and I thought he was taking," Rodriguez said, "so I threw a fastball down the middle. He was swinging."

Other than that, Rodriguez pitched pretty well. The other two runs he allowed, in the second inning, came after a couple of well-placed ground balls slipped through the infield.

Angel Pagan led off with a single up the middle. Brandon Belt then bounced a ground ball through the hole between short and third, sending Belt to second. No. 8 hitter Joaquin Arias then hit another grounder through the same hole, driving in Pagan. An out later, Belt scored on Justin Christian's groundout. "That's what I wanted," Rodriguez said. "Ground ball, ground ball."

Rodriguez righted himself and did not allow another run through six innings. He ran his streak to 48 consecutive starts in which he lasted at least five innings, the longest active stretch in the National League.

Rodriguez may have been pitching one of his last games in an Astros uniform. He is expected to be one of the most coveted pitchers on the market before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

He didn't have much margin for error coming in. The Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and the Astros have struggled offensively, especially against left-handers. They entered the game hitting a league-worst .210 against lefties.

In order to try to improve his team's chances against lefty Madison Bumgarner, Astros manager Brad Mills loaded his lineup with seven righties and two switch-hitters. It didn't make much difference.

Bumgarner gave up just two hits in seven innings, a second-inning single by Jed Lowrie and a seventh-inning homer by Chris Snyder.

"He's got a lot of stuff going a lot of different directions, a lot of angles," Snyder said. "He's got good stuff. They jumped to a quick lead, four runs makes it a lot easier, especially in a park like this on a night like tonight. Do that and you can cruise."

Bumgarner also said that pitching with the lead helps: "It's nice to get out to an early lead. It takes a little pressure off. You're still trying to go out there and pitch your game and make pitches, but if you mess up here and there, it's still going to be OK."

Mills said players came back to the dugout commenting on Bumgarner's cutter.

"He was starting balls out of the zone away to right-handed hitters and it was almost missing inside," Mills said.

There was one of potentially controversial moment late in the game, when Giants beefy third baseman Pablo Sandoval bowled over Snyder at the plate, knocking the ball loose, to score an insurance run in the eighth inning.

Although some around baseball are sensitive to such plays --including many in San Francisco, where Posey was knocked out for the season on a collision in May 2011 -- the Astros didn't seem upset.

"I thought it was clean," Mills said. "It looked to me like Snyder did a good job blocking the plate. He just wasn't able to hold on to it."

Sandoval was trying to score on a fly ball to shallow left field. J.D. Martinez's throw was on line and in plenty of time. Snyder caught it on a hop and braced himself for Sandoval's impact. "I had no problem with it," Snyder said. "I came out fine. I just didn't hold on to the ball."

The more pressing issue in the Houston clubhouse was another loss, the 11th in the past 12 games. The Astros are now 9-33 on the road.

"There's another game tomorrow," Snyder said. "We just have to come out and play."

Jeff Fletcher is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.