Astros pitcher Rodriguez makes major-league debut

CHICAGO (AP) -- Corey Patterson's night started with a thud when he was flattened in an outfield collision with teammate Jeromy Burnitz.

Patterson then picked himself up Monday and did the same for the Chicago Cubs.

He went 3-for-3 with a go-ahead homer, and Burnitz also connected to back Glendon Rusch's strong pitching as Chicago sent the struggling Houston Astros to their sixth straight defeat, 4-1.

"Right at the last minute I called it, but it was just too late with the crowd going," Patterson said, referring to Willy Taveras'
second-inning fly ball. "I got the worst of it. I'm OK, but I'll probably be sore tomorrow."

Burnitz made the catch and a shaken-up Patterson stayed on the ground for several seconds before jogging off with his teammate.

"Both got up unscathed. I was more worried about Corey. Both wanted the ball and you like to see guys hustle like that, but sometimes it's so noisy out there, it's hard to hear each other," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

The Astros aren't making any noise at all away from Houston. They dropped to 2-20 on the road, the worst mark in the major leagues, and will send Roger Clemens to the mound Tuesday night in hopes of stopping their losing streak.

Rusch (3-1) allowed five hits in eight innings, including Brad Ausmus' first homer of the season, which tied the game in the second. Ryan Dempster got three outs for his third save in four chances.

Rusch was making just his fourth start after beginning the season in the bullpen, showing for the second straight season an ability to relieve or step into the rotation when his teammates are injured.

"I'd like to start obviously, but I didn't mind what I did last year. I feel like I can help the team doing either one," Rusch said.

With Rusch working quickly, the game took just 2 hours, 7 minutes.

"Glendon's not one of those 21st Century, 95 mph pitchers. He's sneaky," Ausmus said. "He always does the same thing, he comes right at you."

Patterson's long homer to right was his ninth of the season, all solo shots. Burnitz added a two-run drive in the sixth off rookie Wandy Rodriguez (0-1), who was making his major-league debut after being called up from Triple-A Round Rock. He started in place of Andy Pettitte, who has tightness in his left arm.

Working on just three days' rest since his last minor-league start, Rodriguez allowed six hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts. He retired eight straight before Patterson's homer.

"I didn't feel any pressure. I was confident and I was locating my pitches. I just hung two pitches and gave up two home runs," Rodriguez said.

The Cubs got to Rodriguez for a run in the first on back-to-back singles by Jerry Hairston and Neifi Perez and a sacrifice fly by Derrek Lee.

Chicago had first and third and none out in the second after singles by Jason Dubois and Patterson, who then got picked off.

"Just a bad play on my behalf," he said. But one that he erased three innings later.

The Astros again couldn't muster much offense. They've scored just 57 runs on the road this season.

"We're struggling offensively. It's hard to tell whether it's what they are doing or what we're not doing," manager Phil Garner said. "We're just having a heck of a time getting anything going."

Game notes
For the second straight game, the Cubs faced a rookie in his major-league debut. They were matched against Brandon McCarthy of the White Sox on Sunday. McCarthy didn't get a decision as the Cubs won 4-3. ... Rodriguez reached base in his first two at-bats, on an error in the second and with his first major-league hit, a single in the fifth. He made a nice fielding play in the third, moving laterally off the mound to pick up Perez's grounder and then throwing him out from his knees.