Astros 10, Pirates 3
The Houston Astros have gone from baseball's last winless team to one of its best.
Lance Berkman hit his first home run, Carlos Lee and Pedro Feliz drove in two runs apiece and the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 10-3 victory on Sunday.
The Astros have won eight of 10 games after losing their first eight. A difficult early schedule was a big factor in the rough start - they faced San Francisco, Philadelphia and St. Louis in the first three series.
Houston's starting pitching has been reliable from the beginning, but the offense is producing now that Berkman is back after missing the first two weeks with a knee injury. The Astros averaged 1.75 runs in their first eight games, and 4.6 in their last 10.
``I think we have as good a team as anybody in the National League right now,'' Berkman said. ``But you have to be sharp when you play those teams, or you're going to get beat. We weren't sharp and we got beat. Now, we're back together, everybody's here, everybody's healthy and we're playing well. We just need to maintain it.''
Brett Myers (1-1) allowed 11 singles and struck out six in six innings and Michael Bourn tied a single-game career high with three steals.
Charlie Morton (0-4) gave up five runs and five hits in three innings for the Pirates, who've lost six in a row after a 7-5 start.
Morton has allowed 24 earned runs in 13 1-3 innings this season, but the offense was also misfiring on Sunday. The Pirates had 14 hits and stranded nine runners.
``When you get down big, it emphasizes how tough it is to score runs,'' Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. ``We did start to swing the bat well, and I hope we can build off that. Now, we need to be able to swing with guys in scoring position.''
Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit and Andy LaRoche singled in the second inning to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. Myers then fanned Morton for his 1,000th career strikeout.
Myers didn't think the milestone was a big deal - especially since it came against a pitcher.
``I really wish it was somebody else, but oh well,'' Myers said. ``It took a lot of guys to get there.''
Berkman led off the Houston half of the second with a homer to left. It was Berkman's 314th career home run, tying him with Reggie Smith for fifth all-time among switch hitters.
Feliz singled later in the inning, stole second and scored on J.R. Towles' single to put Houston up 2-1. The Astros stole six bases, their highest total since stealing seven in a May 2006 game against Washington.
``We're kind of working on it all the way around,'' Bourn said. ``We're looking better out there, putting everything together and winning games.''
The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the third. Bourn scored on a fielder's choice before Feliz drove a two-run single to center for a 5-1 lead. Feliz had five RBIs in the series.
Brian Bass relieved Morton for the Houston half of the fourth and walked Bourn and Jeff Keppinger with one out. Pittsburgh's pitchers gave up eight walks.
Lee then found the gap with a liner to right-center. He slid into third, Bobby Crosby's relay throw skipped away from LaRoche and Lee was awarded home for an 8-1 lead.
The Pirates loaded the bases and added a run in the sixth, but Myers got Aki Iwamura on a groundout to end the threat.
Mills replaced Myers with Chris Sampson for the seventh. Myers threw 91 pitches and wasn't happy with the decision.
``I didn't feel like I was tired or anything like that,'' Myers said. ``I wanted to stay in there, but it was probably a good time to get me a break there and not let me throw 100 pitches every time I go out there, and be fresh for the next one.''
With the game out of hand, Mills wanted to get some of his relievers work.
``He goes, 'I'm a 120-pitch pitcher,''' Mills said. ``I said, 'Well, thanks. We only need 90 today.' That didn't go over too well.''
Houston scored two runs in the seventh off left-hander Brian Burres. Tommy Manzella drove in the first with a double to right and Burres yielded a bases-loaded walk to Keppinger to make it 10-2.
Jeff Clement doubled and scored in the eighth against Tim Byrdak, the first run allowed by the Astros' bullpen in 12 1-3 innings.
NOTES: The Pirates have been outscored 55-9 during their six-game skid. ... Pence, Berkman and Manzella all accidentally threw their bats on swinging strikes. Pence also threw a bat into the seats in Saturday's game. ... Pirates P Chris Jakubauskas was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion and bruise after he was struck in the head by a line drive in Saturday's game. He was released from the hospital on Sunday. The Pirates recalled Burres and picked up Bass' contract from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game. The team also optioned right-hander Daniel McCutchen to Indianapolis and designated outfielder Brandon Jones for assignment to clear roster space for Bass.