Wandy Rodriguez' Pitching Paves Way for Houston Astros

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

DENVER - MAY 14:  Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez #51 of the Houston Astros delivers against the Colorado Rockies during MLB action at Coors Field on May 14, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The great New York Yankee teams had great pitching. So did the Atlanta Braves from the 1990s. Call it a cliche, but it's true—offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

So, if the Houston Astros are ever going to win the World Series, they'll have to do so through pitching.

And not just pitching, but greatpitching. Starters, set-up men (the Jesse Orosco types,  who are brought on to get out troublesome left-handed hitters), middle relief (i.e. holders),and the closers.

The Astros took two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning last night by a 5-0 shutout behind Wandy Rodriguez' stellar complete game.

Nine innings pitched (giving the bullpen a night off), five hits allowed, no earned runs, one walk, 11 strikeouts, and an 8-6 season record to go with a 2.96 ERA.

Ok, so it was against the Pirates. But still, it's a great win.

Houston lost one game in the series, the middle game 6-3. And in that game starter Brian Moehler suffered a hard-luck loss, allowing three earned runs and two walks against three hits, four strikeouts, and a homer.

But the bullpen couldn't hold things together. In that game, Houston outhit the Pirates 10-7 but were a paltry one for eight with runners in scoring position.

Lance Berkman continues his climb towards .300 as he went two for four with two RBIs in the final game against Pittsburgh. He's now hitting .273.

Humberto Quintero went one for three with a walk. Q-Berto is .243 on the season

The win against the Pirates to finish off the series leaves Houston once again flirting with .500 as they're at 41-42. They are a mere four games behind the N.L. Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who are 47-40.

For Houston to win the division and make post-season noise, it's a simple equation. Good pitching and good hitting. The pitching's looked good lately, but the real test will come when the Astros face good teams again. (Sorry, but the Washington Nationals don't qualify).