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Houston at Pittsburgh

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Houston (41-56)0000002103111
Pittsburgh (41-55) «00024010x7100

Pirates 7, Astros 3

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Jim Tracy didn't have to search for a word to describe what it was like going nearly two weeks without a victory.

Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche each drove in two runs and Pittsburgh won for the first time since the All-Star break, beating the Houston Astros 7-3 Saturday night to stop a seven-game losing streak.

The Pirates were outscored 43-20 during a slide that included three-game sweeps by Atlanta and Colorado and followed a pre-break stretch of nine victories in 13 games. The skid was their longest since they lost eight in a row before winning their final two last season.

"It's been hell, you know that?" Tracy said. "That's what it's been -- this has been frustrating for all of us, with the progress we were making leading up to the break."

With Paul Maholm (6-12) avoiding a major league-leading 13th loss by pitching effectively over 6 2/3 innings, the Pirates exited last place in the NL Central after falling there for the first time this season with a 2-1 loss to Houston on Friday night.

Maholm ran his scoreless innings streak against the Astros to 15 before tiring in the seventh, when Mike Lamb homered and Hunter Pence had an RBI double. Maholm shut out Houston on five hits over the first six innings in his first start against them since his three-hit shutout on April 24 in Pittsburgh.

"We can't seem to break through on these guys -- left-handers we haven't seen before or guys that are struggling," Astros manager Phil Garner said after his team's sixth loss in eight games since the break.

Actually, Maholm's record is misleading. He has been reliable most of the last two months, lasting at least seven innings in seven of 11 starts while often getting minimal run support. The Pirates have scored two runs or fewer in six of those 11 starts.

"I needed to go out and do my job and just get us back on a positive note," said Maholm, who has a 9-4 career record after the break. "We needed to take the pressure off and just go play ball."

Maholm, who allowed eight hits, left with runners on second and third and the Pirates up 6-2 in the seventh. Salomon Torres then got Mark Loretta on a groundout. The Pirates have won seven of eight against Houston this season.

Freddy Sanchez hit a solo homer, his fifth, and scored three times for the Pirates, who hadn't won in 13 days since beating the Cubs 6-2 in their final game before the break on July 8.

"It was bad, it seemed like we lost all of our momentum we had before the All-Star break" LaRoche said. "We lost our approach, we weren't making pitches. I don't know what it was, but it was tough."

Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (6-9) was ineffective again despite not allowing a hit until Matt Kata's leadoff single to start a two-run fourth. Sanchez and LaRoche singled to load the bases before Rodriguez hit Xavier Nady with a pitch to force in a run and Bay hit the first of his two sacrifice flies.

Rodriguez gave up six runs, four earned, in five innings. Since pitching 16 scoreless innings in consecutive starts to beat the Rockies and Mets, he has yielded 11 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings while losing to the Cubs and Pirates.

"I thought he was going to have a good game, the way he started," catcher Brad Ausmus said. "You breeze through three innings and then something just turns on you. It's not like he was giving up home runs or being hit all around the yard with line drives. ... They had a couple of well-hit balls, a hit batter, a couple of balls hit spots down the line, and the runs just stacked up on him."

Bay's second sacrifice fly came an inning later, when the Pirates scored four times to make it 6-0 on Kata's RBI double and LaRoche's two-run single. Kata, released by Texas earlier this season, had two hits and scored twice in his second start since being called up by the Pirates on June 30.

"No one likes to lose and guys tend to press a little bit (during a slump)," Kata said. "That's when you have to concentrate on the details, doing the little things right."

Bay, a consistent run producer since 2004 but slumping since early June, had multiple RBI for only the second time in 21 games and the third time in 39 games.

Shawn Chacon pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.

Notes

Houston's Lance Berkman (swollen hand) didn't start for the second game in a row, striking out against Damaso Marte as a pinch-hitter in the eighth to strand two runners. Berkman probably won't start Sunday against left-hander Shane Youman. ... During a pregame ceremony to retire Hall of Famer Paul Waner's number, the Pirates recognized Astros INF Craig Biggio for reaching the 3,000-hit plateau. Biggio left the Astros' dugout and tipped his cap while receiving a standing ovation. ... Houston 3B Morgan Ensberg's throwing error on Maholm's sacrifice bunt aided the four-run fifth. ... Bay has 11 RBI in 16 career at-bats against Rodriguez.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

F. Sanchez
AB 3
R 3
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
Pittsburgh

P. Maholm
IP 6.2
H 8
ER 2
BB 2
K 5
 
Houston Astros
Chris Burke, RF5000024 .230
Hunter Pence, CF5021002 .329
Mark Loretta, 2B4010102 .309
Carlos Lee, LF5010023 .295
Morgan Ensberg, 3B4110033 .232
Mike Lamb, 1B4131001 .305
Eric Bruntlett, SS4131001 .315
Brad Ausmus, C2000212 .244
Wandy Rodriguez, P1000000 .172
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
   a- Craig Biggio, PH1000001 .249
    Matt Albers, P0000000 .222
   b- Lance Berkman, PH1000012 .260
    Dave Borkowski, P0000000 .000
Totals36311339  
a-hit into fielder's choice for Qualls in the 7th
b-struck out for Albers in the 8th
Batting
2B - Hunter Pence (25, Maholm)
HR - Mike Lamb (10, Maholm)
SH - Wandy Rodriguez (8)
RBI - Hunter Pence (45), Mike Lamb (28), Eric Bruntlett (5)
2-OUT RBI - Hunter Pence (17)
Team LOB - 10
Fielding
DP - Bruntlett-Loretta-Lamb, Ensberg-Loretta-Lamb
E - Morgan Ensberg (11, Throwing)
Houston Astros
Wandy Rodriguez (L,6-9) 5764160 4.46
Chad Qualls 1000010 3.75
Matt Albers 1211001 5.76
Dave Borkowski 1100010 4.20
IBB - F. Sanchez by Wandy Rodriguez
HBP - Nady (by Wandy Rodriguez)
Pitches-Strikes - Wandy Rodriguez 93-60, Chad Qualls 7-6, Matt Albers 15-8, Dave Borkowski 16-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Wandy Rodriguez 3-7, Chad Qualls 1-0, Matt Albers 2-0, Dave Borkowski 1-1
Batters Faced - Wandy Rodriguez 25, Chad Qualls 2, Matt Albers 4, Dave Borkowski 4
Pittsburgh Pirates
Matt Kata, 3B4221010 .202
Freddy Sanchez, 2B3321110 .299
Adam LaRoche, 1B4032000 .246
Xavier Nady, CF-RF3001013 .281
Jason Bay, LF2002010 .246
Ryan Doumit, RF4010023 .298
    Shawn Chacon, P0000000 .273
Ronny Paulino, C4010003 .240
Jack Wilson, SS4110002 .252
Paul Maholm, P3100020 .162
    Salomon Torres, P0000000 .000
    Damaso Marte, P0000000 .000
    Nate McLouth, CF0000000 .231
Totals31710718  
Batting
2B - Matt Kata (4, Rodriguez), Ryan Doumit (17, Borkowski)
HR - Freddy Sanchez (5, Albers)
SF - Jason Bay 2 (8)
RBI - Matt Kata (8), Freddy Sanchez (35), Adam LaRoche 2 (56), Xavier Nady (52), Jason Bay 2 (60)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - LaRoche-J. Wilson
Pittsburgh Pirates
Paul Maholm (W,6-12) 6.2822251 4.57
Salomon Torres (H,2) 1311010 5.12
Damaso Marte (H,10) 0.1000010 1.53
Shawn Chacon 1000120 3.48
Pitches-Strikes - Paul Maholm 97-60, Salomon Torres 25-17, Damaso Marte 9-7, Shawn Chacon 21-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Maholm 8-6, Salomon Torres 2-0, Shawn Chacon 1-0
Batters Faced - Paul Maholm 29, Salomon Torres 6, Damaso Marte 1, Shawn Chacon 4
Game Information
Attendance - 32068
Game Time - 2:52
Temperature - 74
Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - C.B. Bucknor, Third Base - Joe West