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TEX@HOU: Wandy hurls seven shutout frames vs. Rangers

HOUSTON -- After Wandy Rodriguez allowed a four-run inning in his last start, the Astros responded by providing one of their own for the southpaw on Thursday.

Rodriguez threw seven scoreless innings, and a two-out error began a four-run fifth inning for the Astros, who ended a five-game losing streak by cruising to a 7-0 win in their series finale against the Rangers.

"When Wandy's got his breaking ball working, he's hard to beat," said Astros first baseman Carlos Lee. "He can throw that in any count and keep the hitters off balance. Right now, it's working for him, and it seems like the guys have no chance."

History wasn't on Rodriguez's side when he took the mound. Rodriguez allowed six runs in each of his past two starts against the Rangers entering Thursday, lasting no more than four innings in either start.

Rodriguez (6-4) shook off his past numbers and trusted his defense, which came through. Shortstop Clint Barmes and second baseman Angel Sanchez rolled three double plays for Rodriguez, who ended five of his seven innings with ground-ball outs.

"Playing behind him tonight made it a lot of fun for us," Barmes said. "If somebody got on base, he made his pitch and got a ground ball for us, and we were able to make a quick inning out of it and get back in and start hitting."

Meanwhile, the Rangers' defense committed two errors behind starter Matt Harrison, none bigger than in the fifth inning. With two outs and Michael Bourn on second, third baseman Adrian Beltre made a spectacular stab on a Hunter Pence grounder before throwing the ball away on a hop past first baseman Michael Young, allowing Bourn to score.

The Astros poured on three more runs in the inning, beginning with a bizarre hit by Jason Michaels. The left fielder ripped what appeared to be a two-run triple down the right-field line before the play was overturned to a ground-rule RBI double after replays showed the ball hit off a concessions tray and came back into play.

"I went out there to check with [first-base umpire] Jerry Layne to see exactly what the other guys saw, because he didn't see it," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "He was looking at the chalk, where the ball hit on the chalk. The other guys got together. I applaud them for getting together and getting a call right, even though at that time it went against us."

The call took away a run at the time, but Chris Johnson made sure the run came across with a two-run single to give the Astros a 5-0 lead.

"Johnson's hit was the big one," Harrison said. "I got ahead, 1-2, tried to go down and away and got it up and away."

Michaels added a two-run home run two innings later off reliever Dave Bush. It was the second home run of the game for the Astros after Lee smashed his second long ball in as many nights with a solo shot to left to put Houston on the board in the fourth.

The Astros' bullpen backed up Rodriguez's stellar outing by setting the Rangers down the rest of the way, beginning with David Carpenter's perfect eighth inning in his first Major League appearance.

"Getting the opportunity to go out there and be in a big league stadium, there's nothing like it in the world," Carpenter said.

Harrison (6-7) threw 110 pitches in six innings and got his pitch count up early. An Elvis Andrus error forced the lefty to throw 10 more pitches than he would have needed to get out of the first.

Rodriguez, who evened his career record to 68-68 with the win, helped the Astros break an eight-game home losing streak against the Rangers.

Each of the Astros' first five batters in the lineup had a hit, and Barmes provided three hits from the seven-hole.

J.R. Towles started and caught for the first time since leaving Rodriguez's previous start on June 24 against the Rays in the third inning after a foul tip hit him in the chin, forcing the catcher to get 11 stitches.

The Rangers scattered only four hits off Rodriguez and didn't have a multihit inning.

"He's going right after them, and that's what our game plan was tonight," Towles said. "They're going to be aggressive, so let's be aggressive with them."

Rodriguez's command got away from him in the third inning, walking two batters and loading the bases before forcing a deep flyout to right field from Beltre. The southpaw saw only three batters in each of his next four innings.

"The time's he's struggled, it's been hard for him to get locked back in," Mills said. "But it was sure nice to see him get locked back in and get out of that inning. That was big."

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