Randall Simon returns from his well-chronicled suspension as the Pittsburgh Pirates try to win their first three-game series ever at Minute Maid Park in the finale of a three-game series with the Houston Astros.
The Pirates won the first two games in Houston without Simon, who sat out three games after hitting one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ sausage mascots with his bat during a costume race Wednesday at Miller Park.
Simon was arrested and booked for misdemeanor battery after Wednesday’s game, but was not charged with a crime. Still, he was cited by the sheriff’s department for disorderly conduct and fined $432.
He was also fined $2,000 by Major League Baseball and chose not to appeal the ruling.
Pittsburgh is just 6-24 since Minute Maid Park opened as Enron Field in 2000. The Pirates did sweep a two-game set in Houston last July.
Pittsburgh was 0-5 in Houston this season before Saturday’s 5-2 victory as Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez each drove in two runs. Kip Wells won for the first time since May 31 as the Pirates posted their first victory in Houston since last July 16, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
Jeff Bagwell hit his second homer in as many games for the Astros, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
Bagwell’s homer was his 17th of the season and 397th of his career, surpassing Joe Carter and Frank Thomas for 37th place on the all-time list.
STANDINGS: Pirates - 5th place, 6 1/2 GB, NL Central. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Fogg (5-3, 4.44 ERA). Fogg is 3-0 with a 5.06 ERA over his last five starts and hasn’t lost since a 6-5 setback to Atlanta on June 8. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed six runs and five hits over six innings of Pittsburgh’s 8-7, 10-inning win over Milwaukee on Tuesday, striking out five without issuing a walk. Fogg is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts against Houston.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Tim Redding (5-8, 4.02 ERA). Redding earned his first win since June 8 with Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over Cincinnati. The 25-year-old right-hander, who was 0-4 with a 5.46 ERA over five starts between victories, allowed two runs and four hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out four and walking one. Redding is 0-0 with a 3.13 ERA in four career starts against Pittsburgh.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Pirates - Jason Kendall, .307 avg.; Reggie Sanders, 15 HRs; Ramirez, 60 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 56 runs and 17 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .315 avg.; Morgan Ensberg, 17 HRs; Lance Berkman, 58 RBIs and 61 runs; Adam Everett, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 8-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Pirates - Pittsburgh hasn’t won back-to-back games since sweeping Houston at PNC Park last weekend. … C Kendall is batting .397 (29-for-73) during a career-high 17-game hitting streak, the longest current run in the majors. … OF Lofton left Saturday’s game after jamming his right hand while sliding into third base in the first inning. X-rays were negative but his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain. Astros - The Astros have won just three of their last nine series. … OF Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch for an NL-leading 16th time Saturday. … INF Geoff Blum is batting .383 (23-for-60) during his career-high 14-game hitting streak.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pirates - 22-23 on the road; Astros - 31-18 at home.
INJURIES: Pirates - OF Lofton (hand), day-to-day; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; 2B Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL. Astros - 2B Jeff Kent (shoulder), 15-day DL; INF Jose Vizcaino (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL.