Pittsburgh (5-13) at Houston (11-5)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 63° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Apr 22, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Houston Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg may not focus much on his individual accomplishments, but they’re certainly a concern for pitchers who have to face him.

The surging Ensberg looks to continue his hot hitting and the Astros seek their sixth win in seven games as they continue their weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.

Ensberg set a new franchise record in Friday’s 3-2 Astros victory by homering in his sixth consecutive game. He has seven homers during the stretch and is batting .411 on the season.

He also is batting .457 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in the last 12 games.

“Doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Ensberg, whose two-run shot in the first inning Friday game Houston a lead it would not relinquish. “What I thought was really awesome was for us to get out in front and hold on to the lead … it was just nice to get it a lead and protect it.”

The Astros (11-5) have done an excellent job of protecting slim leads this season. Friday’s victory improved them to a major league-best 6-0 in one-run games. Closer Brad Lidge allowed two hits and a run in the ninth inning, but worked out of the jam for his sixth save in as many opportunities.

Craig Biggio went 3-for-4, moving him ahead of George Sisler for 42nd place all-time with 2,813 hits. It was the third three-hit effort in four games for Biggio, who has raised his batting average from .209 to .300.

While Biggio has rebounded after a slow start, left fielder Preston Wilson has gone in the opposite direction. Wilson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Friday and drew boos from the home crowd.

After hitting four home runs in the season’s first seven games, Wilson has hit none since. He has struck out in 13 of his last 18 at-bats.

Rookie Taylor Buchholz (0-1, 3.18 ERA) makes his second career start looking to build on a strong performance his last time out. Buchholz did not receive a decision in Monday’s 8-7 victory over Milwaukee, but pitched effectively, limiting the Brewers to three runs and two hits in six innings.

Meanwhile, the Pirates (5-13) would likely be thrilled to receive a quality start from Ian Snell (0-1, 9.60), who has endured a rough first three outings. The right-hander gave up six runs and six hits in five innings of a 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.

Opponents are batting .382 against Snell this season, and he gave up a homer on an 0-2 count to Cubs second baseman Todd Walker on Sunday, drawing the ire of Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy.

“He’s been told one, two, 200 times in the minor leagues that when it’s 0-2, a ball in the middle of the plate is unacceptable,” Tracy said. “Against major league lineups, especially a lineup like this, you have to be able to locate pitches. There has to be a real understanding of that.”

Snell easily had the finest start of his major league career against Houston last season, on Sept. 19 at PNC Park. He pitched eight innings of three-hit shutout ball to earn what remains his only career victory.

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Starting Pitchers

I. Snell LAD vs. T. Buchholz NYM
14-11 Record 6-10
4.74 ERA 5.89
169 K 77
74 BB 34
1.46 WHIP 1.25