HOUSTON - Just 12 pitches into his first start of the season, Chris Jakubauskas was crumpled on the ground, holding his head and moaning in pain.
The 31-year-old right-hander was hit in the head by Lance Berkman’s line drive and carted off the field in the first inning of the Houston Astros’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Wandy Rodriguez (1-2) struck out seven to earn his first win, and the Astros won for the seventh time in nine games since an 0-8 start.
Jakubauskas (0-1) was taken to a nearby hospital and was scheduled to stay overnight for observation.
Pittsburgh manager John Russell had an encouraging report on his pitcher’s condition after the game.
“He’s as good as to be expected,” Russell said. “The tests they have run on him have come back negative. They ran a CT scan, and that came back negative. He doesn’t seem to have a concussion, but we’ll see how he does overnight. So far, so good.”
Jakubauskas was just called up from the minors on Friday. With two outs in the first, Berkman drove a 1-0 pitch straight back to the mound, and the ball hit Jakubauskas just behind his right ear.
Medical staffs from both teams ran to the mound as Jakubauskas stayed down. Berkman also ran over to check on the pitcher, along with the Pirates infielders.
Third baseman Andy LaRoche was relieved to see Jakubauskas moving his legs.
“When I got there, he was just saying something like, ’Oh my God, Oh my God,’ or along those lines,” LaRoche said. “His legs were kicking, so that was good to see. I just went up there and said a prayer and hoped he was OK.”
Russell said Jakubauskas’ nose was bleeding, but he was coherent.
“I heard the ball hit the bat and then hit his head,” Russell said. “He was answering questions. He never blacked out. It was a frightening moment. That really puts the game in perspective.”
Jakubauskas was taken off the field on a medical cart. He gave a thumbs up to the crowd, who offered a standing ovation.
Berkman said he was shaken for the rest of the game.
“It’s probably the most rattling thing I’ve ever been a part of in the big leagues,” Berkman said. “It affected me for at least the next couple of at-bats. It was just hard to focus. But I’m glad, I think, the preliminary report is that he’s going to be fine. I’m just glad of that.”
Hunter Pence and Pedro Feliz drove in two runs apiece for the Astros, who finished with a season-high 13 hits.
Rodriguez allowed five hits and one earned run in 7 1-3 innings, finally getting offensive support after Houston failed to score in his first 18 innings this season.
“I felt very comfortable,” Rodriguez said. “I threw the ball and put the ball wherever I wanted.”
Right-hander D.J. Carrasco replaced Jakubauskas, and Pence promptly hit a two-run double down the left-field line. Michael Bourn singled before Berkman’s shot, so Jakubauskas was charged with the runs.
Ronny Cedeno reached on Feliz’s error in the third inning, and eventually scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single, making it 2-1.
Humberto Quintero hit a bases-loaded single in the fourth, but McCutchen threw from center field to home in time for Jason Jaramillo to tag out Cory Sullivan.
Left-hander Jack Taschner relieved for the Houston half of the fifth and Jeff Keppinger led off with a double. Feliz hit the next pitch off the facade in left-center, his first homer and Houston’s sixth of the season for a 5-1 lead.
Jaramillo hit a solo shot with two outs in the seventh, his first of the season. Rodriguez retired 12 in a row before that.
Brandon Lyon replaced Rodriguez in the eighth, after Rodriguez threw 96 pitches. Matt Lindstrom shut out the Pirates in the ninth to earn his sixth save in six chances this season.
The Pirates have lost five in a row, and dropped to 0-9 when they’re held to three runs or fewer. The mood in the clubhouse was predictably somber after the game, with each player still jarred by their teammate’s injury.
“I have never seen that happen before,” LaRoche said. “It’s scary. I hope I don’t have to witness it again.”
Notes: Astros ace Roy Oswalt returned to Mississippi after a tornado damaged his parents’ home. Oswalt grew up in Weir, Miss. A deadly tornado ripped through the state Saturday, splintering homes and tearing the roofs off businesses. Houston general manager Ed Wade says he expects Oswalt to rejoin the team by Tuesday. He’s due to make his next start next Thursday. ... Jakubauskas was the seventh starter for the Pirates this season. The last time Pittsburgh used seven different starting pitchers in its first 17 games was 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Pirates RHP Ross Ohlendorf threw 22 pitches in a bullpen session before the game. Ohlendorf has been on the disabled list since April 12 with back spasms.
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