As a change of pace, Wandy Rodriguez decided to show us what it's like to have competent starting pitchers. After Bud Norris and Roy Oswalt struggled against a tough Cincy offense in the first two games of this weekend series, Wandy got it done with seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball.
Wandy's been on a nice little streak of late. He's given up three or fewer runs in five of his last six starts and four or fewer hits in five of his last seven. He's got a nice month of July going and has already tied his best month this season for strikeouts with 25. His xFIP is also at the lowest of the season, clocking in at 3.58 before Sunday's start. All in all, it's a nice bounce-back for Wandy and should bolster his trade value should the Astros move him.
We also can't forget both Hunter Pence and Chris Johnson doing some yard work. Johnson hit his first home run at MMP, a towering blast over the Crawford Boxes. Pence hit his 15th homer of the season and now has an outside shot to get to 30 for the first time in his career. ZiPS projected him at 24 before Sunday's game. If he continues this hot streak at the plate that saw him hit three homers in his last nine games, he could easily get to 20 by mid-August.
As for Johnson, I am hard pressed to find a player to compare him to. He's obviously got impressive power, but it doesn't always translate to the game. He's now got three home runs in 116 plate appearances with the big league club. That number is skewed a little by is lack of power in his first stint. In 60 plate appearances in July, he's hit three home runs. That's similar to Pence's power production. If Johnson could evolve into a 20-25 homer guy at third, I have to think the Astros would be extremely happy.
For once, the Astros end a series on a happy note. The Red's MIke Leake matched Wandy stride-for-stride and was pretty impressive. I said in the preview for this series that Leake should be a front-runner for Rookie of the Year. I know he should be, but am also aware the Stephen Strasburg or Jason Heyward will likely get more votes. Leake, though, deserves some credit. I'm not sure he has much upside, but he's turned into a very nice pitcher for the Reds. If Dallas Keuchel performed similarly for Houston, I'm sure we'd be thrilled.