Series: Game 2 of 4

Houston leads 2-0 (as of 7/19)

Game 1: Monday, July 18
Game 2: Tuesday, July 19
Game 3: Tuesday, July 19
Game 4: Wednesday, July 20

Astros 9

(46-46, 16-32 away)

Pirates 3

(40-53, 21-24 home)

    5:05 PM ET, July 19, 2005

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 122000031 9 14 1
    PIT 000011010 3 8 3

    W: E. Astacio (1-4)

    L: I. Snell (0-1)

    Ensberg sparks Houston offense

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Some reward for Astros rookie Ezequiel Astacio: He finally won in the majors, then promptly was rewarded with a trip back to the minors.

    Astacio limited Pittsburgh to two runs over six innings for his first major-league victory, and Morgan Ensberg keyed a pair of Houston scoring innings in an 9-3 victory over the Pirates in a doubleheader opener Tuesday night.

    Astacio (1-4) needed six starts and eight appearances to finally win, overcoming a succession of rough starts to hold the Pirates to five hits -- four singles. The only extra-base hit was Ryan Doumit's first career homer, a solo shot in the fifth. Doumit added his second homer in the eighth, off Russ Springer, a drive to right estimated at 456 feet.

    Doumit's first homer was the 13th off Astacio in 30 2/3 innings and the ninth in four starts -- an indication why Astacio came into the game with an 0-4 record and 9.47 ERA. He was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock when the game ended to clear a roster spot so Wandy Rodriguez could start the second game.

    "We're very happy to see him throw like that," manager Phil Garner said. "It's a shame we have to make a move like we did to send him out, but at least he goes down with a game ball and a win. To me, he's improving tremendously. ... Each time we see him, he's improving. Sometime along the line, he's going to be here for good.'"'

    Ensberg's RBI single followed Lance Berkman's double in the first off rookie Ian Snell (0-1), and Ensberg had his team-high 69th RBI of the season with a triple in the third after Berkman's leadoff double.

    Willy Taveras added a two-run double in the second for the Astros, who took a 5-0 lead in the third against Snell -- also trying for his first career victory.

    The Astros, held to five runs and 20 hits during a three-game sweep by St. Louis last weekend, have outscored the Pirates 20-4 in the first two games of a four-game series that likely will played in less than 48 hours. The teams follow up Tuesday's doubleheader with a day game Wednesday.

    Houston, which dropped four of its first five to Pittsburgh earlier this season, won its ninth in 13 games to get back to .500. The Astros (46-46) are 31-16 since starting the season 15-30.

    The Pirates have been outscored 50-12 while losing six of seven, and are 1-5 since the All-Star break to fall a season-low 13 games below .500. In this game, they were almost as bad defensively at they were at the plate, with three run-scoring infield errors just in the final two innings.

    "A loss is a loss," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We're in a rut right now, and we've got to fight and get out of it."

    Snell was one of the top pitchers in the minors before his June 26 recall, pitching a no-hitter while going 9-2 with a 4.06 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis. But his second career start was much like his first on Sept. 29 last season, an 8-4 loss to the Phillies: Bad at the start, and not much better after that.

    "It looks like he has good stuff," Garner said. "He just got it over the plate."

    Four of the first six Astros batters had hits, with Orlando Palmeiro starting the two-run second with a double. Just before Brad Ausmus grounded into a double play that ended the Astros' third, Snell had more hits allowed (eight) than retired batters (seven).

    "He elevated the ball, he pitched behind," McClendon said. "I thought he would perform better than that. It was a just a bad outing."

    Palmeiro had three of the Astros' 14 hits, a night after they had 17 hits, one short of their season high.

    Game notes

    Snell has an 11.70 ERA in his two career starts. ... Pirates SS Jack Wilson and 3B Bobby Hill each had a run-scoring error during Houston's three-run eighth, and RHP Salomon Torres had one in the ninth. ... Astacio's single in the fourth was the eighth hit by an opposing pitcher in Pittsburgh's last six games. ... Four relievers followed Astacio. ... Wilson went 0-for-3, playing less than five hours after his wife gave birth to their second child.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press