Keppinger's Bat Leads Astros Past Pirates, 5-2

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Astros Back Myers in 5-2 Win Over Pirates

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) – Jeff Keppinger homered and drove in three runs to support 7 2/3 sturdy innings from Brett Myers in Houston’s 5-2 win over the Pirates in the opener of a three-game set.

Hunter Pence singled twice, scored two runs and walked, and Jason Bourgeois scored twice and swiped two bases for the Astros, who have won all seven games between the teams this season.

Myers (7-6) allowed two runs on five hits for Houston, which has won five of its last seven games. He walked one and struck out four in extending his franchise record to 19 straight starts of six innings or more to open the season. Matt Lindstrom retired the side in order in the ninth to nail down his 22nd save of the season.

Zach Duke (3-9) suffered the loss in his first start since June 16, yielding a pair of runs on five hits over five frames while fanning five for the Pirates, who have dropped seven straight.

Bourgeois led off the game with an infield single, stole second and third and scored on a Keppinger ground out.

Pence opened the second inning with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out double to right field by Humberto Quintero.

Andrew McCutchen started the home fourth with a double, moved to third on a ground out and came in to score on a Neil Walker sacrifice fly to halve the Houston lead.

Keppinger greeted D.J. Carrasco by belting his first pitch of the sixth just over the wall in left field to restore the Astros’ two-run edge. The visitors tacked on another run in the frame when Pence walked, moved up on a Chris Johnson single, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a squeeze bunt by Angel Sanchez.

The Pirates put runners at first and second with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but Andy LaRoche was picked off at second base to end the threat.

Bourgeois used his speed to create another run after he drew a walk with one out in the seventh off Sean Gallagher. He advanced on a balk, moved to third on a ground out and scored on Keppinger’s double to center field that made it 5-1 and chased Gallagher.

Javier Lopez came on to retire Lance Berkman to end the inning.

The Pirates pushed across a run in the eighth on a two-out single by McCutchen that scored Lastings Milledge and knocked Myers out of the game.

Jose Tabata then welcomed Brandon Lyon to the contest with an infield single before Walker lined out to end the frame.

Duke was activated from the disabled list during the All-Star break…He had been sidelined by a left elbow flexor pronator strain…Carlos Lee did not start Friday’s game for the Astros after missing the team’s scheduled workout on Thursday at PNC Park…Myers became the 53rd pitcher since 1920 to begin the season with 19 straight starts of six innings or more. The last Astros pitcher to put together a similar streak was Roy Oswalt, who did it in 20 straight turns from May 11-August 22, 2005…Myers improved to 2-6 in 10 road starts…Pence extended his hitting streak to seven games…Keppinger finished 2-for-4 and has 29 multi-hit games…Pittsburgh has allowed a run in the first inning in six of its last seven games…Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games…Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the first game played at Three Rivers Stadium.

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Astros Return From All-Star Break To Face Pittsburgh Pirates

(Sports Network) - Two of the have-nots in the National League's Central Division get together tonight when the fifth-place Houston Astros visit the sixth-place Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game weekend series at PNC Park.

The Astros and Pirates, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, last season, are already all but out of contention in the division at the season's unofficial midway point. Houston trails the first-place Cincinnati Reds by 12 1/2 games, while the Pirates are 18 games back and in possession of the worst record in the NL at 30-58.

Hard-throwing right-hander Brett Myers takes the mound for the Astros with the hope of repeating a strong outing in his last start before the All-Star break, when he allowed just four hits and a run in eight innings of a 4-1 win over St. Louis last Saturday. The win leveled Myers at 6-6 in his initial year with Houston after he'd spent his entire professional career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Jacksonville, Fla. native is 4-4 lifetime against the Pirates, including a 10-3 win in an April 25 start in Texas. In that game, Myers allowed 11 hits and two runs in six innings en route to his first win of 2010.

Pittsburgh counters with 27-year-old lefty Zach Duke, who makes his first appearance since a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a strained elbow.

The former 20th-round draft pick (2001) had lost four straight starts before the injury, including a 7-2 interleague defeat against the Chicago White Sox on June 16 in Pittsburgh. In that game Duke was touched for eight hits and five runs, and in the four losses he allowed 38 hits and 21 runs in a combined 22 innings.

The Clifton, Texas native is 2-4 lifetime against the Astros with a 3.25 earned run average in 61 innings.

Pittsburgh entered the break on a six-game skid and lost a 6-5 heartbreaker to Milwaukee on Sunday, with the Brewers' Corey Hart clubbing a game-winning two- run homer in the ninth inning.

After Andrew McCutchen's sacrifice fly scored Ronny Cedeno to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth, Milwaukee's Jim Edmonds led off the bottom half with a ground-rule double off Pirates closer Octavio Dotel (2-2).

Two batters later, Hart crushed a 1-0 slider over the wall in left for his 21st home run of the season, finishing off a sweep that featured three one-run victories for the hosts.

Lastings Milledge went 2-for-3 with a solo homer for Pittsburgh (30-58), while Dotel suffered his second blown save of the series and fifth of the season.

Houston was also last in action on Sunday, when the team dropped a 4-2 decision to St. Louis in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Matt Holliday had a three-run homer for the Cardinals, one of four hits given up by Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (6-11), who fanned six through six innings.

The Astros have dominated the season series between these teams, winning all six meetings with Pittsburgh thus far in 2010. This will be Houston's first trip to the Steel City, where the club won four of six from the Pirates last year, of the season.

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