PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Houston Astros, and yes, the Pittsburgh
Pirates, might have anticipated this from Roger Clemens and Andy
Pettitte. They probably didn't expect it on the same night from
rookies Ezequiel Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez took Astacio's spot on Houston's roster minutes after
Astacio beat the Pirates in the opening game Tuesday night, then
pitched even better than he did as the Astros completed a
doubleheader sweep with a 6-4 victory.
Lance Berkman hit a two-run homer in the second game and had
four hits in the Astros' first road doubleheader sweep since Aug.
4, 1995 -- also in Pittsburgh.
In the opener, Astacio limited Pittsburgh to two runs over six
innings for his first major league victory, and Morgan Ensberg and
Berkman keyed two early scoring innings in a 9-3 victory.
"Going into a doubleheader in somebody else's ballpark and
you've got two kids on the mound, you're always concerned, but they
did a marvelous job," manager Phil Garner said.
Houston has won 10 of 14 to get back to a game over .500. The
Astros (47-46) are 31-16 since starting the season 15-30.
The Astros, held to five runs and 20 hits during a three-game
sweep by St. Louis last weekend, have outscored the Pirates 26-8 in
the first three games of a four-game series that likely will played
in less than 48 hours. A day game Wednesday following a
doubleheader presented a precarious situation for the Astros with
two rookie pitchers going.
"They've taken their bumps and bruises at times, but they made
some adjustments and came out and pitched well," said Craig
Biggio, who had two hits and scored twice in the second game -- his
2500th in the majors.
The Pirates have been outscored 56-16 in losing seven of eight
and are 1-6 since the All-Star break, and seldom-used players are
doing much of the damage.
Just as in the opener, when Houston took a 5-0 lead in the third
inning against rookie Ian Snell (0-1), the Astros jumped up early
with a four-run third against Mark Redman (4-10), who lost his
sixth straight start.
Chris Burke and Humberto Quintero singled ahead of Biggio's
walk, loading the bases with one out. Eric Bruntlett, a utility
infielder making an infrequent start, cleared the bases with a
triple and later scored on Ensberg's sacrifice fly.
Previously, Bruntlett had only two RBI in 44 games this season.
On Monday, Quintero drove in four runs to lead an 11-1 win after
previously having only one RBI.
"I like it when guys like Bruntlett have some success," Garner
said. "You pull for guys like that."
Rodriguez (5-4) made the lead stand up to win his third in four
decisions, returning from a short stay in the minors so he could
pitch during the All-Star break. He took the roster spot of
Astacio, who was sent back to Triple-A Round Rock between games,
and gave up three runs, two earned, in six-plus innings.
Berkman made it 6-2 in the fifth with a two-run homer, his
seventh. Berkman is 18-for-44 (.409) in his last dozen games and is
6-for-13 in the Pirates series.
Astacio (1-4) needed six starts and eight appearances to finally
win in the majors, holding the Pirates to five hits -- four singles
-- over six innings in the first game.
While losing seven of eight, the Pirates have been beaten by
star-caliber pitchers such as Pedro Martinez, Mark Prior and Greg
Maddux. But, going into the doubleheader, Astacio and Rodriguez had
only four wins between them, all by Rodriguez.
"When you're in a little bit of a rut, it doesn't matter who's
out there," Pittsburgh's Matt Lawton said. "Right now we've got
to turn it up. I don't know who's going to do it, but we've got to
get it done."
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon shuffled his lineup to try to
generate some offense but Lawton, batting third for the first time
this season, went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and hit into a
"But we have to stay professional with our approach and
continue to grind it out and continue to believe in each other,"
McClendon said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for us."
Biggio played in his 2500th career game in the nightcap,
getting two hits and scoring twice. He is the 44th player to play
so many games. ... Only Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds have done
so among active players. ... Redman gave up six runs in six
innings. He has yielded 31 runs in 34 innings during his six-game
losing streak. ... Brad Lidge pitched the ninth inning of the
second game for his 21st save in 24 opportunities.