HOUSTON – The Pirates’ up-and-down offense took another dip Wednesday.
The Pirates mustered only five hits – all singles off of starter Wandy Rodriguez in a 5-0 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Rodriguez (8-6) threw the second complete game of his career. He matched his career-high with 11 strikeouts and walked one, as the Pirates were held to one run or fewer for the 23rd time in 85 games this year.
Rodriguez, who threw a season-high 125 pitches, faced 31 batters, four above the minimum thanks to a pair of double plays.
Only one Pirate base runner advanced past first, and they had only three hits in the final seven innings.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton (1-2), in his first start since tossing six scoreless innings against the Marlins last week, struggled. The right-hander allowed five runs on 10 hits in four innings.
Lance Berkman hit a two-run double, and Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada added RBI-hits for the Astros.
The Astros led 5-0 after four innings and the Pirates never threatened Rodriguez, who entered the game with a 3-4 record and a 5.37 career ERA against the Pirates. The only other complete game for the 30-year-old left-hander came against the Mets on July 6, 2007.
The Pirates had one runner in scoring position all game, when the LaRoche brothers, Andy and Adam, hit consecutive singles in the second. But Robinzon Diaz and Ramon Vazquez starting his sixth game in a row for injured Freddy Sanchez (back) struck out to end the inning.
Vazquez singled with two out in the fifth, but pinch-hitter Steve Pearce struck out on three pitches. Pearce is batting .083 this season (1-for-12).
Garrett Jones singled in the seventh, but Andy LaRoche grounded into a double play. In the eighth, pinch-hitter Brandon Moss hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Astros scored two runs in the third inning and added three in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.
With one out in the third, the Astros strung together four searing base hits. Michael Bourn tripled to center. Miguel Tejada singled in Bourn for a 1-0 lead. Lance Berkman hit a 420-foot double, but Tejada was caught at the plate on shortstop Jack Wilson’s relay throw. Carlos Lee doubled home Berkman for a 2-0 lead.
The Astros took advantage of a rare Pirates defensive breakdown in the fourth. With one out, Adam LaRoche failed to cover first on Hunter Pence’s routine grounder to Ramon Vazquez. Later in the inning, Bourn hit a run-scoring single, and Berkman hit a two-run double for a 5-0 lead.
By John Grupp