Wandy, Pence Do The Monster Mash, Astros Win 8-3

HOUSTON - JUNE 13: Houston Astros celebrate a 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park on June 13, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Well, all it took were the Astros stars to realign in the lineup and a victory was not far off. Wandy Rodriguez returned in fine form, throwing six shutout innings while allowing two hits and four walks. He also struck out five while throwing 95 pitches.

Hunter Pence also returned after sitting out a game with back problems. He showed no ill effects in this one, going 3 for 4 with his ninth home run, four RBIs and a walk. He was one of four Astros with multi-hit games, including Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson. Wallace added two doubles, bringing his season total to 18 while Kepp raised his average up to .295 since he returned from the disabled list. 

Both Wilton Lopez and Sergio Escalona turned in good relief appearances, but Brandon Lyon's return has been anything but rosy. He gave up three runs against the Braves and is just getting hammered right now. I have to think his days are numbered as a closer, though his salary probably means he stays on the team for the near future.

We talked about this a little on the podcast this week, but I wasn't surprised by this outcome. I didn't think it probable, but the difference between Atlanta, who's a good team with a shot at going to the playoffs, and Houston, who's got a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft, is not as big as you'd think. Call it parity, call it luck, but that reality and this series should give you hope as an Astros fan.

The road back may be long and there needs to be a lot more talent in this system before the Astros win consistently, but the difference between being a good team and a bad one isn't great. A couple good moves and this Astros team could become interesting. Maybe not this season, but next year...

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