Two of Vogelsong's five wins are vs. Houston

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Houston Astros came into Pittsburgh as

baseball's hottest team. They're threatening to leave town as one

of the coldest.

Jason Bay homered and drove in four runs and Ryan Vogelsong

limited Houston to one run over six innings in Pittsburgh's 5-2

victory Saturday -- the Astros' third loss in four games following a

12-game winning streak.

Houston fell a game behind Chicago in the NL wild-card race as

the Cubs beat Florida 5-2. The Astros are 1-3 in a five-game

weekend series against the sub-.500 Pirates that wraps up Sunday

night, scoring only four runs in the losses. They averaged nine

runs during the winning streak.

So far, it hasn't been a happy return to Pittsburgh for Astros

manager Phil Garner, who starred at second base 25 years ago for

the 1979 World Series champion Pirates.

"We've got to bounce back tomorrow. It's very, very important

going into St. Louis," Garner said, looking ahead to his team's

next series. "We've got to get bats the cracking again, get that

feeling going to score runs when he need to score runs."

That hasn't happened against the Pirates' developing pitching

staff. Oliver Perez struck out 14 during a 3-1 victory Thursday in

the first game of a doubleheader, and former Pirates first-round

draft pick John Van Benschoten gave up one run in eight innings for

his first career victory, 5-1 on Friday.

Vogelsong, coming off a 9-5 loss to Milwaukee on Monday in which

he allowed seven runs in 2 2-3 innings, struck out three, walked

three and gave up five hits in six innings. He had lost five of six

decisions, and was 0-7 in Pittsburgh since beating the Phillies 6-2

on April 8.

"It definitely was a good change, the way the season has gone

for the most part," Vogelsong said.

Despite the Pirates' upgraded pitching, Jeff Bagwell agreed with

his manager that Sunday is a must-win game for the Astros,

especially with Roy Oswalt (17-9) pitching.

"We can't come out of here losing four of five. That's the

bottom line," Bagwell said. "As much as things worked out the

last couple of weeks, the last couple of days they haven't. We've

got to correct that and keep coming up with those big hits again."

Craig Biggio tried to do that by homering on Vogelsong's second

pitch of the game and driving in both Houston runs. Biggio's 22nd

homer tied a career high and extended his NL record to 40 homers

leading off games.

But Vogelsong (5-12) settled down to beat the Astros for the

second time in as many starts, allowing just one earned run in

each. Salomon Torres followed with two scoreless innings before

Mike Gonzalez got one out in the ninth ahead of back-to-back

singles by Brad Ausmus and pinch-hitter Jason Alfaro.

Jose Mesa allowed an RBI single to Biggio before retiring the

final two batters to pick up his 39th save in 44 opportunities.

"I thought the ninth would be the break-it-loose point,"

Garner said. "We've been coming up with hits in those


Bay, a top contender for the NL Rookie of the Year award, hit a

three-run homer in the first off Brandon Backe (3-3) and added an

RBI double following Jason Kendall's double in the fifth.

"You usually don't get the opportunity to hit with as many men

on base (10) as I did," said Bay, who had five at-bats. "I didn't

get them all in, but I'm glad I got some of them in."

Bay tied the Pirates rookie record of 23 homers, set by Johnny

Rizzo in 1938 and matched by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in 1946, and

leads NL rookies in homers, RBI (71), on-base percentage and

slugging percentage. The Pirates have never had an NL Rookie of the

Year since the award was established in 1947, a year after Kiner's

big season.

Bay's homer came after Kendall walked and left fielder Biggio

dropped Jack Wilson's fly ball to left for an error, sending

Kendall to second. The night before, Biggio leaned into the stands

to take a potential homer away from Bay.Game notes
Bay had been 1-for-13 since homering Tuesday against

Milwaukee. ... Despite the losses, Houston is 11-5 against

Pittsburgh and has won 21 of 27 and 15 of 19 overall. ... Backe

made his fifth career start. He was coming off consecutive

victories. ... The Pirates played their second Saturday afternoon

home game, neither scheduled. Saturday's game was moved to avoid a

conflict with Pitt's football opener; an Aug. 28 game against St.

Louis was moved for TV.