PITTSBURGH (AP) – Wandy Rodriguez took Ezequiel Astacio’s spot on Houston’s roster minutes after Astacio beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, then pitched even better than Astacio did as the Astros completed a doubleheader sweep by winning 6-4 Tuesday night.

Lance Berkman, picking up much of Houston’s missing offense with Jeff Bagwell on the disabled list, hit a two-run homer in the second game and had four hits in the Astros’ first road doubleheader sweep since Aug. 4, 1995 – also in Pittsburgh.

In the opener, Astacio limited Pittsburgh to two runs over six innings for his first major league victory, and Morgan Ensberg and Berkman keyed a pair of early scoring innings in a 9-3 victory.

The Astros, held to five runs and 20 hits during a three-game sweep by St. Louis last weekend, have outscored the Pirates 26-8 in the first three games of a four-game series that likely will played in less than 48 hours. The teams follow up Tuesday’s doubleheader with a day game Wednesday.

Nothing new there: The Pirates have been outscored 56-16 in losing seven of eight and are 1-6 since the All-Star break, and seldom-used players are doing much of the damage.

Just as in the opener, when Houston opened a 5-0 lead in the third inning against rookie Ian Snell (0-1), the Astros jumped up early with a four-run third against Mark Redman (4-10), who lost his sixth straight start.

Houston has won 10 of 14 to get back to a game over .500. The Astros (47-46) are 31-16 since starting the season 15-30.

Chris Burke and Humberto Quintero singled ahead of Craig Biggio’s walk, loading the bases with one out. Eric Bruntlett, a utility player making an infrequent start, cleared the bases with a three-run triple and later scored on Ensberg’s sacrifice fly.

Previously, Bruntlett had only two RBIs in 44 games this season. On Monday, Quintero drove in four runs to lead an 11-1 win after previously having only one RBI.

Rodriguez (5-4) made the lead stand up to win his third in four decisions, returning from a short stay in the minors so he could pitch during the All-Star break. He took the roster spot of Astacio, who was sent back to Triple-A Round Rock between games, to give up three runs, two earned, in six-plus innings.

Berkman made it 6-2 in the fifth with a two-run homer, his seventh. Berkman is 18-for-44 (.409) in his last dozen games and is 6-for-13 in the Pirates series.

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon shuffled his lineup to try to generate some offense but Matt Lawton, batting third for the first time this season, went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and hit into a double play.

Jason Bay generated most of the Pirates’ second-game offense with a pair of doubles, as a Rodriguez balk and a throwing error by shortstop Adam Everett accounted for two runs. Ryan Doumit hit his first two career homers in the opener.

Ensberg and Willy Taveras each drove in two runs in the first game for the Astros, who were aided by three Pirates run-scoring infield errors in the final two innings.

Astacio (1-4) needed six starts and eight appearances to finally win in the majors, overcoming a succession of rough starts to hold the Pirates to five hits – four singles – over six innings.

Notes: Biggio played in his 2500th career game in the nightcap, getting two hits and scoring twice. He is the 44th player to play so many games. … Only Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds have done so among active players. … Redman gave up six runs in six innings. He has yielded 31 runs in 34 innings during his six-game losing streak. … Brad Lidge pitched the ninth inning of the second game for his 21st save in 24 opportunities.

AP-ES-07-19-05 2307EDT


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