Pirates 6, Astros 1

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Houston Astros have gone cold in Pittsburgh.

Rookie John Van Benschoten allowed five hits in eight innings for his first major league win, and the Pirates beat the Astros 6-1 Friday night.

Houston, which had won 12 straight before losing the opener of Thursday’s doubleheader, has lost two of three for the first time since Aug. 20-22 against the Chicago Cubs. The Astros are one percentage point behind the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card race, tied with San Francisco.

“We know we’re not going to score nine runs like we’ve been doing,” Houston’s Craig Biggio said. “We knew eventually somebody was going to pitch a good game against us, and that’s happened the last two nights. But the way we’ve played is not what we’re looking for or what we expect.”

Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead in the third on consecutive doubles by Jason Kendall and Jack Wilson, and Daryle Ward’s RBI single. Jeff Kent had an RBI infield single in the fourth, but the Pirates made it 4-1 in the bottom half on Jose Castillo’s RBI groundout and Kendall’s run-scoring single.

Craig Wilson and Castillo had run-scoring singles in the eighth off Dan Wheeler.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh rookie Oliver Perez struck out 14 in the Pirates’ 3-1 win.

“They’ve had a couple well-pitched games, and we really didn’t swing the bats that well either game,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “The truth of the matter is we all know we can’t have too many of these sort of streaks now that we’re back in the wild-card race.”

Pete Munro (4-6), who beat Van Benschoten in Houston on Sunday, allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.

Van Benschoten (1-3), a first-round pick in the 2001 amateur draft, made his fifth major league start. The 24-year-old right-hander, who had relieved injured Kip Wells in the first inning last Sunday, gave up one run, struck out three and walked one, lowering his ERA from 6.64 to 5.08.

“This time, the kid used his fastball just the way he needed to,” Biggio said. “He didn’t get behind all night and was even able to get his breaking ball over. Their two kid pitchers just flat-out beat us. We’ve got to find a way to win a series here now.”

Salomon Torres finished with a hitless ninth for the Pirates.

“When you get on a streak like we were, you just roll with the punches, ride the roll for as long as it goes,” Kent said. “What we have to do know 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.”


The game drew 26,097, far less than expected. A postgame fireworks display was canceled because the Allegheny River was at a high level after rain Wednesday and Thursday. … Van Benschoten threw 63 of 93 pitches for strikes in his longest outing this season. … Jason Bay came close to tying the Pittsburgh record for home runs by a rookie (23) but was robbed by Biggio, who reached into the left-field stands to snare his fifth-inning drive.

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