Houston (77-65) at Pittsburgh (65-76)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Pittsburgh, PA, US
Temp: 50° F
  • Game info: 1:35 pm EDT Sat Sep 11, 2004
  • TV: KNWS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Before coming to Pittsburgh for a five-game series, the Houston Astros were the hottest teams in the majors.

After losing two of three to the Pirates, the Astros will look to resume their winning ways and remain atop the tightly packed NL wild-card standings.

Houston was held to just five hits in eight innings by Pittsburgh rookie John Van Benschoten in a 6-1 defeat Friday night.

The Asros, who had won 12 straight before losing the opener of Thursday’s doubleheader, have lost two of three for the first time since Aug. 20-22. The defeat dropped Houston into a three-way tie with San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs for the wild-card lead. Florida and San Diego are both just 1 1/2 games back.

“When you get on a streak like we were, you just roll with the punches, ride the roll for as long as it goes,” Astros second baseman Jeff Kent said.

“What we have to do now is not analyze what’s going on and just hope that these losses and whatever others we have the rest of the way don’t hurt us.”

Pittsburgh rookie Oliver Perez struck out 14 in the Pirates’ 3-1 win on Thursday. Ryan Vogelsong is hoping to continue that trend.

The struggling right-hander is 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA in eight starts since returning to the starting rotation July 31 following the trade of starter Kris Benson to the New York Mets. In his only previous start against the Astros, Vogelsong limited Houston to one earned run in six innings of a 7-2 win on June 23.

“This guy is like a box of chocolates,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said of Vogelsong after he lasted just 2 2-3 innings in a 9-5 loss to Milwaukee on Monday. “You don’t know what you’re gonna get from one start to the next.”

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Starting Pitchers

B. Backe HOU vs. R. Vogelsong PIT
5-3 Record 6-13
4.30 ERA 6.50
54 K 92
27 BB 67
1.52 WHIP 1.62