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HOUSTON — The Astros Opening Day 2012 on Friday will be remembered for a lot of things.
First, it will be for the natural hoopla that is always present on Opening Day, even when we know there isn’t much to be excited about for the next 161 games.
Then there was the optimism of a new era ushering in with the Astros playing under the new ownership of Jim Crane after his purchase from Drayton McLane was completed during the offseason. Minute Made Park overflowed with a sellout crowd of 43,464 to commemorate the day.
Finally, Opening Day stands out because of the way Astros ultimately lost 5-3 to the Colorado Rockies, committing four errors and then the solo home run by Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the ninth inning that ended any real chance of a comeback.
But perhaps glossed over in all of this was a pretty solid outing for veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez. While certainly far from perfect in his first ever Opening Day start, Rodriguez gave the Astros a chance during his 6 1/3 innings work on the mound with his breaking ball and changeup working fairly well.
“I was able to throw some good pitches,” said Rodriguez, who is the lone remaining member from the Astros 2005 World Series team. “I was able to get some good movement and was able to get people out.”
In his Opening Day debut with the National League’s youngest team backing him up, Rodriguez allowed six hits and three unearned runs while throwing 66 strikes in 97 pitches.
But like many of his young teammates, Rodriguez has some first-game miscues to clean up. The one that will standout the most came in the third inning when Rodriguez threw to no one on first base on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice bunt to put two Rockies base runners in scoring positions. Colorado went on to score three unearned runs that inning to take a 3-1 lead as a result of the error on first where Rodriguez was expecting second baseman Jose Altuve to be there covering.
“That play was too fast,” said Rodriguez, who escaped the third inning allowing four hits. “I pick up the ball and throw it first and wasn’t nobody there.”
But in a season where there isn’t a lot expected of the Astros, it was nice to see Rodriguez recover (aand play well the next 3 1/3 innings (allowing just one more hit). The Astros tied the game 3-3 in the fourth inning with back-to-back solo homer blasts from Carlos Lee and Brian Bogusevic to allow Rodriquez to give way to right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriquez in the seventh with the game tied.
Rodriguez’s Opening Day performance was an improvement from another difficult spring for the veteran, which is a good sign as far as Astros manager Brad Mills is concerned.
“Wandy threw the ball extremely well,” Mills said. “He got through those first couple innings and he was absolutely outstanding. It is great to see him go in and get 97 pitches and make those pitches and do a good job.
“He got some big outs when he needed to and he battled through it. I was thrilled to death because of that.”