Astros 6, Pirates 5

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HOUSTON (AP)—The Houston Astros seem to be making all the right moves and getting hits when they need them.

Mike Lamb hit a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning, and the Astros extended their season-high winning streak to eight games with a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

“I wouldn’t call this an ugly game,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “We just found a different way to win without just outslugging somebody.”

Houston has won 10 of its last 12 games and 16 of its last 19 to move two games behind idle Chicago in the NL wild-card race.

“I don’t think we played poorly. We just took advantage of every mistake they made,” Garner continued. “It was an important game tonight. You’re not going to hit four or five home runs every night.”

With the game tied at 5 in the seventh, Jeff Bagwell led off with a triple off Nelson Figueroa (0-2). Frank Brooks came on in relief and intentionally walked Jeff Kent before Lamb lined a double into right-center field gap, giving the Astros the lead.

“I was just trying to hit the ball in the air with less than two outs and I was lucky and got a hit,” Lamb said. “Tonight we did a good job of getting hits when we needed them. We needed something like this winning streak to get us back in the race. We’re just a better team than we were in the first half.”

Houston starter Carlos Hernandez struggled through three innings, giving up four earned runs.

Chad Qualls (3-0) threw one inning of relief and allowed a run and one hit, but picked up the win. Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 23 opportunities.

“Our bullpen really picked us up tonight,” Garner said.

Jason Bay and Jack Wilson each homered for Pittsburgh, which has lost 13 of its last 18 and was mathematically eliminated from the NL Central Division race.

“We do this all the time—we play tough against the best teams,” Wilson said. “We may not be better talented, but we are not going to give up.”

Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon was pleased with the Pirates’ effort.

“We just hurt ourselves at key times,” he said. “We didn’t execute and we made errors in the outfield and baserunning mistakes. They are just growing pains. They are mistakes, but they are giving a grand effort.”

Figueroa took the loss, pitching to one batter and giving up a run on one hit.

The Pirates tied it at 5 in the top of the seventh when Jason Kendall walked and scored on a double by Wilson.

Houston took a 5-4 lead in the fifth when Jose Vizcaino hit a leadoff single, moved to second on Raul Chavez’s sacrifice and scored on pinch-hitter Morgan Ensberg’s RBI double.

Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead the first inning on Wilson’s 11th homer of the season.

Houston moved ahead 2-1 in the bottom half on sacrifice flies by Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent.

Bay’s 21st homer, a three-run shot, gave the Pirates a 4-2 lead in the third.

Houston tied it at 4 in the fourth. Chavez doubled with two outs and pinch-hitter Chris Burke walked. Craig Biggio singled in Chavez, and Burke scored on the play when center fielder Jose Bautista mishandled the ball for an error.

Notes

Houston has won 18 of its last 20 against Pittsburgh at Minute Maid Park. … Bagwell has homered in four of his last nine games. … The Pirates are 11-20 in games started by left-handers. … The Pirates have homered in 13 of their last 16, and 16 of their last 20. … Josh Fogg needs one victory to become the first Pittsburgh pitcher since Jason Schmidt (1997-99) to win 10 or more games in three consecutive seasons.

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