Astros 3, Pirates 0


HOUSTON (AP) – Taylor Buchholz threw an eye-opening gem for his first major league win, coming within one out of a one-hit shutout in the Houston Astros’ 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

The 26-year-old rookie allowed only singles by Jeromy Burnitz in the fifth inning and Jack Wilson in the ninth. He struck out five and walked none in his second career start and fourth appearance.

Craig Biggio hit a solo homer off lefty John Grabow in the seventh inning and scored all three runs.

Buchholz (1-1) retired his first nine batters before hitting Chris Duffy on the foot with a pitch in the fourth. But Wilson grounded into a double play, and the right-hander kept cruising along.

Duffy reached on an error by second baseman Eric Bruntlett with two outs in the ninth and Wilson followed with a single. Buchholz then was lifted for All-Star closer Brad Lidge after 104 pitches.

With Buchholz bouncing in the dugout as he watched, Lidge struck out Jason Bay on a 3-2 pitch for his seventh save in seven tries.

Morgan Ensberg had an RBI single in the first and Lance Berkman added a sacrifice fly in the fifth after Biggio hit his 611th career double. Biggio went 3-for-5, his fourth three-hit performance in the last five games.

Ensberg’s franchise-record streak of six straight games with a home run ended as he went 1-for-2 with two walks.

Pirates starter Ian Snell (0-2) allowed six hits and two runs with four strikeouts in six innings, a much better outing than his last game, when he gave up six runs and six hits in five innings of a 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Astros left fielder Preston Wilson remained in a batting slump, going 0-for-4. But he made a diving catch on Craig Wilson’s line drive in the eighth inning.

Notes: The win puts the Astros over .500 with an all-time record of 3,509-3,508. … Snell’s only major league win came last season when he allowed three hits in eight innings of a 7-0 win over Roger Clemens and the Astros. … Snell does not have a major league hit. He went 0-for-2, which puts his career numbers at 0-for-14 with three sacrifice bunts. … Bay’s streak of reaching base safely in 16 straight games ended as he went 0-for-4.

AP-ES-04-22-06 2159EDT