HOUSTON -- After losing seven consecutive decisions, Ryan Vogelsong knew it was time to change his approach to pitching.
"I know that I have to ability to pitch at this level, so I looked at myself in the mirror and said it is time to do what you can do or you're going back to the minors and I finally did it," Vogelsong said.
Jason Kendall hit his first career grand slam off of the left-field pole as Pittsburgh snapped a five-game losing streak and won for just the second time in 17 games at Houston. They have only won four of their last 23 and two of 13 on the road.
"This doesn't wash away what has been happening, but it is nice to get a win," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Hopefully we can get on a roll and start playing like we did in the first 45 games and not the last 20."
Vogelsong (2-7) won for the first time since April 8 against Philadelphia. He gave up two runs, while walking three and striking out three.
"It's a big lift. I needed this big time," Vogelsong said. "I tried not to let it weigh on my mind. I tried to block out the last two months and stay positive and do my job."
McClendon advised Vogelsong to stay with the basics in a pregame conversation.
"This was baseball 101. Good pitching, good bullpen and timely hitting," McClendon said. "I talked to Ryan before the game and I told him to keep it simple. Just keep the ball down and be aggressive and it worked. They hit some balls right at people and he made some good pitches when he was behind in the count."
It was the first time that Vogelsong had faced Houston.
"That was our first look at him, although we had watched him on TV," Craig Biggio said. "He has a good arm. When you throw 94, you are going to get some people out."
Rob Mackowiak and Jose Castillo singled off Pete Munro in the seventh. David Weathers relieved, and after getting an out, walked pinch-hitter Randall Simon to load the bases for Kendall, who hit his second homer of the season.
"I didn't know what to do. I don't hit many home runs,"Kendall said. "I thought it was foul until I saw it hit the pole. I was just looking for a slider down and in and I got it."
Weathers thought it was foul, too.
"I didn't think it would stay fair when he hit it. I looked at the umpire to get another ball but then I saw him watching it and I thought maybe I should watch it to," Weathers said. "It blew me away."
Munro (1-1) gave up four runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Houston went up 1-0 in the first after Biggio led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice by Adam Everett and scored when second baseman Castillo mishandled Lance Berkman's grounder for an error and then committed a throwing error.
Pittsburgh tied it in the second when Craig Wilson tripled and scored on a ground out by Mackowiak and went up 3-1 on a two-run single by Daryle Ward.
Jeff Bagwell singled and Jose Vizcaino drove him in with a triple to cut Houston's deficit to 3-2 in the fourth.
Notes Everett was in the Houston starting
lineup Wednesday for the first time since he strained his hamstring on
June 14. ... Brad Lidge leads the major leagues in strikeouts by a
reliever with 64. ... Bagwell needs one home run to tie Cal Ripken for
32nd on the all-time home run list with 431. ... The Pirates have
homered 27 times in their last 11 games. ... Vogelsong has given up 22
runs in the first inning of his 14 starts this season. ... Andy Pettitte
pitched five scoreless innings in a rehabilitation assignment at
Double-A Round Rock on Wednesday. He gave up one hit while striking out
five and walking one. He threw 73 pitches.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved