HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros showed plenty of positive signs in their home opener, just not enough to win it.
Wandy Rodriguez bounced back from a shaky first start with seven sharp innings and J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace homered in the Astros' 4-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Friday night.
Chris Coghlan homered and drove in two runs to back a solid outing by Ricky Nolasco for the Marlins. Nolasco (1-0) allowed two runs in eight innings.
Rodriguez shut out Florida through six innings, struck out two and scattered eight hits. The left-hander again pitched well at Minute Maid Park, where he came in with a 2.68 ERA over the past four seasons.
He gave up seven runs on nine hits in a 9-4 loss in Philadelphia last week. Towles, the catcher, said Rodriguez found a more comfortable rhythm on Friday.
``I don't know if it was cold, but his pace was a lot better than it was in Philly,' Towles said. ``As soon as he got the ball, he was ready to go.'
Rodriguez threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes.
``I don't want a slow game,' he said. ``I want to quicken the game. That's what I was thinking.'
Towles homered in the third inning to give Houston a 1-0 lead. Florida tied it in the seventh, then scored two runs off Wilton Lopez (0-1) in the eighth and another off Jeff Fulchino in the ninth.
Wallace hit a solo homer in the ninth off Leo Nunez. Towles singled, but catcher Brett Hayes threw out pinch runner Jason Bourgeois trying to steal second for the final out.
``You see how Wandy threw, he threw amazing,' Wallace said. ``He went out there and gave us a great chance to win. Our defense played well behind him, for the most part. Next time, we can hopefully put up a few more runs.'
The Marlins lost star shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning to a bruised left leg, after he was barreled into on a take-out slide at second base. The team said he's day to day.
Logan Morrison's RBI double in the eighth tied the game for Florida, and Donnie Murphy's single sent home the go-ahead run later in the inning. Coghlan's solo shot came with two outs in the ninth and pushed the Marlins ahead 4-2.
The injury to Ramirez occurred when Bill Hall slid late and to the side of second base, leaving both players in the dirt. Hall finally got up while Ramirez remained down, writhing in pain and beating the ground with his fist as trainers came to check on him.
The game was tied at 1-1 in the seventh before Chris Johnson's hit to shallow left field scored Wallace and put Houston up 2-1. Wallace doubled on a ball that bounced off the wall in left field to set up the score.
Towles had a solo homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the third inning and Wallace's shot came in the ninth.
``I'm definitely not thinking to try to hit a homer there,' Wallace said. ``I'm just trying to have a good at-bat, let our team see this guy a little bit. I'm trying to see some pitches and trying to battle him. He left a pitch up and away, and I was just able to put a good swing on it.'
Carlos Lee was shaken up when he crashed into the left field wall grabbing a fly ball hit from leadoff hitter Coghlan in the first inning. He fell to his knees and remained there for a couple of minutes while Bourn and a trainer checked on him. He finally got up and was able to remain in the game.
NOTES: Astros SS Clint Barmes, on the DL with a broken left hand, was cleared to play catch and swing Friday after X-rays revealed that his hand was healing. ... Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez is hoping RF Mike Stanton returns Saturday after missing his sixth consecutive start with a strained hamstring. ``He's getting better and better every (AP) - day,' Rodriguez said.
The Associated Press News Service
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