Series: Game 3 of 4

Houston leads 2-1 (as of 8/26)

Game 1: Thursday, August 24
Game 2: Friday, August 25
Game 3: Saturday, August 26
Game 4: Sunday, August 27

Astros 7

(62-68, 28-37 away)

Pirates 4

(50-80, 33-32 home)

    7:05 PM ET, August 26, 2006

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 020200300 7 11 0
    PIT 030000100 4 9 1

    W: A. Pettitte (12-13)

    L: Z. Duke (8-12)

    S: B. Lidge (27)

    Taveras, Astros extend streaks against Pirates

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Willy Taveras has been doing his part, and on Saturday the pitchers stepped up to help.

    Andy Pettitte made another effective start against Pittsburgh and the Astros won consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks, beating the Pirates 7-4 Saturday night.

    Taveras extended his Astros-record hitting streak to 29 games when he doubled on Zach Duke's third pitch of the game. Taveras has gotten a hit in his first at-bat in 13 of the 29 games.

    Taveras' streak is four games longer than that of Jeff Kent, whose 25-game streak in 2004 previously was the longest in Astros history. Taveras has the second longest streak in the majors this season to Chase Utley's 35-game streak for the Phillies from June 23-August 3.

    Lance Berkman, who homered in Houston's 5-1 victory Friday night, hit a two-run double in the seventh inning. Before that, Pittsburgh's sloppy defensive play -- on a night the Pirates also made some excellent plays in the field -- helped the Astros take a 4-3 lead.

    "That was the big at-bat of the game," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said of Berkman's hit.

    Another good sign for the Astros: Brad Lidge, previously one of the NL dominant relievers, seems to be back on his game after temporarily being moved out of the closer's role. Since adding two-seam fastball that moves down in the strike zone to his high-90s, four-seam fastball, he has made four consecutive scoreless outings.

    Lidge struck out the side in the ninth on 13 pitches and has struck out seven of the nine Pirates he has faced in the series. He got his 27th save in 32 opportunities but his first since Aug. 11.

    "To be honest, I think the two-seamer has made a difference," Lidge said. "I've given up eight home runs this year, all on fastballs over the plate. This gives me more room for error and, the last four games, it's been real effective. I need to continue to throw it and to do it with confidence."

    The Astros hadn't won successive games since winning four in a row from Aug. 8-11, a span that included a three-game sweep of the Pirates in Houston. The Astros are 9-3 against Pittsburgh this season but still are six games under .500.

    "From here on out, we need to win every series," Lidge said. "If not, we need to sweep some teams."

    Pettitte (12-13) improved to 6-1 against the Pirates in seven career starts. He fell behind 3-2 in the second on Jose Castillo's two-run single and Duke's wrong-way RBI single to left after the pitcher twice failed to put down a sacrifice bunt.

    "We were able to score some runs and it was nice to be able to hold onto it," Pettitte said.

    Duke's wildness helped put Houston back into the lead in the fourth. Duke (8-12), ending a six-game winning streak at home, got the first two batters of the inning before Adam Everett doubled. After Brad Ausmus was intentionally walked so Duke could pitch to Pettitte, the pitcher singled into right field and Ausmus then scored on Duke's wild pitch.

    Everett and Craig Biggio had singled and scored in the second when first baseman Joe Randa threw wildly on Taveras' routine grounder that looked to be the third out of the inning. Randa made only his ninth career start at first.

    "It's a different ballgame if I don't make that error," Randa said. "I take responsibility for this game. He's like Ichiro [Suzuki] as a runner, and he made me hurry up the throw."

    The Astros chased Duke in a three-run seventh started when Pettitte singled for the second time, Taveras reached on a force play and Chris Burke singled. Berkman, in a 5-for-45 slump, doubled and Morgan Ensberg singled to make it 7-3.

    Pettitte had retired 14 in a row until being lifted on a humid, 87-degree night when Ronny Paulino and Jose Bautista singled in the seventh. Reliever Dave Borkowski gave up Castillo's single and pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit's sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning.

    Pettitte allowed four runs and seven hits in six-plus innings. He hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his previous six starts against Pittsburgh. Borkowski stayed in to pitch a scoreless eighth.

    Game Notes
    Duke hadn't lost in PNC Park since a 4-3 defeat to Florida on May 13. He is 7-3 at home this season. ... The Astros have won 12 of their last 15 against Pittsburgh. ... NL batting leader Freddy Sanchez of Pittsburgh went 0-for-4 to cut his average to .345. He struck out in the eighth on a pitch he argued hit his right elbow, and the umpires did not change the call after conferring.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press