Astros blank Pirates to end five-game losing streak

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- There's a guaranteed way for a team in a bad hitting slump to win. That's outpitch the opponent, and Wandy Rodriguez and the Houston Astros' bullpen did exactly that.

Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada doubled in runs and Rodriguez pitched six shutout innings in his second start after coming off the disabled list as the Astros stopped a five-game losing streak by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 on Tuesday night.

The Astros still aren't scoring -- they've totaled only eight runs in six games and were outscored 19-3 while being swept in a three-game weekend series by Milwaukee. They didn't need many runs in this game, not with Rodriguez limiting the Pirates to five hits while teaming with three relievers on Houston's third shutout of the season.

Chris Sampson, Doug Brocail and Jose Valverde finished up the five-hitter with a hitless inning each, with Valverde getting his 16th save in 19 opportunities. The three relievers retired all nine batters they faced.

"When things aren't going well, what you need more than anything else is someone to step up and give you a great pitching performance, that's what we got tonight," Berkman said. "We still didn't score a lot of runs, and things were a little difficult, but Wandy was the story."

Kaz Matsui went 4-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt and scored both Astros runs, on Berkman's RBI double down the right-field line in the first and Tejada's double in the sixth. Berkman, the NL player of the month for May, went 1-for-4 to lower his average to .382.

The Pirates, shut out for the first time this season, loaded the bases against Rodriguez in the sixth but the left-hander got Adam LaRoche to line out to shortstop Tejada for the final out.

"Any time we hit it hard, it was at somebody," Pirates manager John Russell said. "We didn't create much offense to support our pitching."

If LaRoche's ball had been hit a few feet into the gap, the Pirates likely would have tied it. Instead, they became the last NL team to be shut out for the first time this season.

"I stayed with the fastball and did what I wanted to with it, I hit it as hard as I could -- but I hit it right to his chest," said LaRoche, a traditional slow starter who is hitting .211. "I'm just not lucky right now."

Rodriguez (2-1) hadn't had much success in Pittsburgh, going 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA in his last four starts there. He was also 3-11 in his last 18 road starts but didn't allow a runner as far as third base until Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez singled and Xavier Nady walked in the sixth.

"I threw a lot more changeups and my breaking ball was better than the last game," Rodriguez said. "Every time I was ahead in the count and my first pitch was for a strike."

Rodriguez was out for five weeks with a strained left groin before returning to lose to St. Louis 6-1 last Wednesday. He allowed six runs -- three earned -- in 4 2/3 innings in that game.

"We"ve been scuffling to score runs, and Wandy made them stand up," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We needed one of those. It's been a rough trip for us."

Pirates left-hander Phil Dumatrait (2-3) pitched effectively over six innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. But he wasn't quite as sharp as he was in beating the Reds 7-2 on Thursday while permitting only two hits and one run while striking out nine over seven innings. He was 1-0 with an 0.71 ERA in his previous two starts.

"It didn't matter what I threw up there to him [Matsui], he hit it," Dumatrait said. "It was a tough loss."

Game notes
NBC hockey announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick, a Pirates fan, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Catcher Ryan Doumit (broken left thumb) began a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Altoona on Tuesday night and could rejoin the Pirates as early as Friday. ... Pirates catcher Raul Chavez threw out both runners who attempted to steal. He has caught three of the five runners who have attempted to steal on him. ... A steady rain began in the third inning and continued until the seventh before picking up again in the ninth. ... The game was the first of a 10-game homestand for Pittsburgh, which also began a stretch of 19 of 25 at home. ... The NL Central teams met for the first time this season. ... The Texas Rangers are the only major league team that hasn't been shut out this season.