Houston (25-25) at Pittsburgh (16-33)

Fog Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 49° F
  • Game info: 1:35 pm EDT Sun May 28, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Roughly 12 hours after a wild 18-inning victory, the Pittsburgh Pirates seek their first series sweep this season when they host the Houston Astros on Sunday at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh (16-33) notched its fourth win in its last five home games Saturday night, 8-7 in a five-hour, 49-minute game that featured 17 pitchers, 33 hits, 21 walks and 37 men left on base.

Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly scored Jason Bay with the winning run to complete the longest regular season game in the majors since July 28, 2005, when Orlando Hudson hit a game-winning single off Scot Shields in Toronto’s 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Rogers Centre.

Houston and Atlanta also played 18 innings in Game 4 of last year’s NLDS on Oct. 9, which the Astros won 7-6 on Chris Burke’s solo homer off Joey Devine.

Bay finished 3-for-7 with four RBIs and homered in his fifth straight game Saturday to become the first Pirates player since Dale Long in 1956 to accomplish the feat.

“That seems like three days ago,” Bay said of his three-run shot off Wandy Rodriguez in the fifth. “Like I’ve said, when you’re going well you try to ride it as long as you can.”

Long homered in eight consecutive games that year to set a major league record that has since been tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993).

Texas’ Kevin Mench homered in seven consecutive games earlier this season from April 21-28 and Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg went deep in six straight games from April 15-21.

Bay, who is hitting .436 (17-for-39) with nine homers and 22 RBIs in his last nine games, reached base in the 18th on a walk and bowled over catcher Eric Munson to score the winning run.

“I just lowered my shoulder and flew over top of him,” Bay said. “I don’t know what happened. I was just trying to score.”

Oliver Perez (2-5, 6.04 ERA), who recently has shown signs of the 2004 form that led to 12 wins, a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts, is slated to start Sunday for the Pirates. The 24-year-old left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last two outings.

Perez is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA lifetime versus Houston.

Houston (25-25) fell to 7-16 on the road and has lost five straight games and 16 of its last 22 to find itself at .500 for the first time since it was 1-1 on April 4.

“We’ll be tested now, we have to bounce back from this, but that’s what you’re supposed to do,” manager Phil Garner said.

A year ago, the Astros started a dismal 2-21 on the road, but won 34 of their final 58 games away from Houston en route to a wild card berth and World Series appearance.

Fernando Nieve (1-3, 5.36) gets the start Sunday and will try to build on one of his best outings of the season. The rookie right-hander allowed two runs in seven innings of a 4-1 loss at Washington on Tuesday.

Nieve, who began the season in the bullpen and made three relief appearances, was added to the starting rotation in mid-April after Brandon Backe was placed on the disabled list with a sprained elbow.

The Astros conclude their 10-game road trip with a three-game series starting Monday at NL Central-leading St. Louis. Pittsburgh hosts the Milwaukee Brewers for four games beginning Monday night.

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Starting Pitchers

F. Nieve LAA vs. O. PĂ©rez Hou
3-3 Record 3-13
4.20 ERA 6.55
70 K 102
41 BB 68
1.33 WHIP 1.75