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Pirates Second Game: Astros rough up Anderson, cruise to 12-3 victory in second game of DH

Sunday, July 29, 2001

By Paul Meyer, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Pirates confronted a huge problem when they took the field for the evening session of the day-night doubleheader yesterday with Houston.

Lance Berkman of the Astros runs into Jason Kendall while scoring last night in the third inning. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

That problem? How to top what they did in the afternoon program.

That proved an impossible task, although the Pirates did put themselves in position for another unbelievable comeback victory.

They fell behind Houston, 8-0, by the fourth inning, then showed they were fresh out of fairy-tale endings and lost, 12-3, in front of 38,295, the Pirates' 11th sellout at PNC Park.

"That's a pretty good club over there," Pirates Manager Lloyd McClendon said, motioning down the hall toward the Houston clubhouse. "It's certainly the type of club we can use as a measuring stick of where we want to be."

Of the first-game theatrics capped by Brian Giles' winning grand slam, Pat Meares said: "Something special."

Nothing special, though, for the Pirates in the second game.

Starter Jimmy Anderson left in the fourth inning, having allowed eight hits and eight runs (seven earned) in three-plus innings.

"Jimmy's human," McClendon said. "He had a bad game, that's it. People can overanalyze it, but he just had a bad game. He got some pitches up, but they hit some good pitches, too. The young man just didn't have his stuff [last night]."

Anderson's cameo appearance was atypical of the way the Pirates have pitched the past 43 games.

In their first 60 games this season, in which they were 19-41, the Pirates received at least six innings from their starter in 24 games. In their past 43 games, in which they're 21-22, they have received 27 six-innings-plus starts.

"The pitching has allowed us to win games," Keith Osik said. "We got off to a bad start and that's hard to recover from, but [McClendon] wanted us to focus on playing better and doing better in the second half, that the first half doesn't mean squat."

Anderson's evening began turning to squat in the second inning after Moises Alou's one-out single. Alou scored on Richard Hidalgo's ground-ball double into the left-field corner.

 
 
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That run was all the Astros got in the second inning because Osik, starting at third base, made a diving stop to his right of Vinny Castilla's rocket that would have been a run-scoring double.

That run in the second foreshadowed a four-run burst in the third.

Craig Biggio led off with a bouncer off shortstop Abraham Nunez' glove for a single. Julio Lugo's flare into right field sent Biggio to third. Jeff Bagwell's double off the right-field wall gave Houston a 2-0 lead.

Lance Berkman lined a ball into right field that handcuffed John Vander Wal and went off his glove for a two-base error, Lugo scoring.

That misplay ended the Pirates' errorless streak at 96 consecutive innings. Atlanta established the major-league season high of 1001/3 consecutive errorless innings in April.

Alou's single to center scored Bagwell. Tike Redman's strong throw to the plate was in time to get Berkman, but Jason Kendall didn't handle the throw, and Berkman scored on that error, boosting the Astros' lead to 5-0.

Anderson began the fourth by hitting Biggio with a pitch. Lugo's double to left sent him to third. Bagwell's double to right scored both runners.

That raised Bagwell's RBI total for July to 36, an Astros club record for RBIs in any month. Bagwell set the record with 34 last August.

Bagwell's double finished Anderson, who got a bit of a pep talk from McClendon moments after taking a seat in the dugout.

"I just told him to put it behind him and get ready for his next start," McClendon said. "This one's done with. Learn from it and move on."

Marc Wilkins, brought up from Class AAA Nashville yesterday, relieved Anderson. He allowed a run-scoring double to Berkman before ending the inning.

The early offensive by the Astros made it a comfortable evening for Tony McKnight, dispatched from Class AAA New Orleans to start the game.

"If you're down 4-0 or 5-0 in the first few innings, it's hard to come back and win," Pirates reliever Scott Sauerbeck said. "When a starting pitcher has a big lead early like that, he thinks, 'I'm going to win this game. I'm going to have a good day.' He's aggressive and confident."

McKnight, the Astros' No. 1 draft pick in 1995, weathered five baserunners in the first two innings and breezed through seven innings.

The only damage inflicted on McKnight was a run-scoring pinch-hit single by Meares in the fourth and a home run by Warren Morris in the sixth, his first in the major leagues since a year ago today at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Pirates did load the bases with one out in the eighth, but any lightning-strikes-twice stuff quickly went poof. A run-scoring ground ball by Osik and another ground ball by Adam Hyzdu ended the inning.

More poof in the ninth when the Astros scored four runs, the last two coming on Brad Ausmus' single over first base.

The loss in the night game dropped the Pirates back to 23 games under .500.

"It really doesn't matter," Meares said. "We're all here to win games no matter how many games under .500 we are. Anytime you're playing a team that's in a pennant race, you want to show up every night and give it your best shot. We're not laying down by any means."

"We're not keeping track of being 10 under or 20 under or a season-low something under," Osik said. "We don't care about that. We've been battling all year. Your record usually doesn't lie, but we've all been playing hard and staying together."

After getting off to an 18-41 start this season, the Pirates have played within a game or two either way of .500.

"I think we get confused a lot of the time when we try to play .500 baseball," Giles said. "That's not setting the standards where they should be.

"But, yes, we have played better, and we can build on that. That was our goal -- to play better. And now our goal should be to play better than what we did over the last 40 or so games."

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