Final

Series: Game 2 of 3

Pittsburgh leads 2-0 (as of 7/5)

Game 1: Friday, July 4
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Pittsburgh3
Game 2: Saturday, July 5
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Pittsburgh4
Game 3: Sunday, July 6
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Pittsburgh8

Astros 3

(44-42, 18-25 away)

Pirates 4

(37-46, 18-26 home)

    7:05 PM ET, July 5, 2003

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 200000001 3 10 0
    PIT 30010000 - 4 9 1

    W: J. Suppan (7-7)

    L: K. Saarloos (2-1)

    S: M. Williams (24)

    Pirates' defense produces some gems

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jeff Suppan overcame a shaky start to pitch seven innings in his second consecutive strong outing and also hit a run-scoring double, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Houston Astros 4-3 Saturday night.

    The Pirates overcame the Astros' two-run first inning by scoring three runs on four straight hits to start their half of the first against spot starter Kirk Saarloos (2-1), and Suppan took over from there.

    After losing seven of eight against Houston earlier this season, the Pirates have won two straight in the three-game weekend series. They also have won three in a row since the Reds beat them Tuesday and Wednesday with consecutive late-inning comebacks.

    Houston has lost eight of 11 to fall one game back of division leader St. Louis in the NL Central.

    Suppan (7-7), who gave up two runs and eight hits, was helped by some excellent plays by an often inconsistent defense. Shortstop Jack Wilson made a diving stop of Lance Berkman's grounder and, while on his stomach, flipped the ball from his glove to second baseman Jeff Reboulet for a force out to end the Astros' third.

    Wilson also made an excellent stop deep in the hole at short to throw out Richard Hidalgo to strand runners on second and third in the seventh. Center fielder Kenny Lofton also ranged far to his right to run down Morgan Ensberg's one-out fly ball in the fifth.

    Suppan, coming off a four-hit shutout Sunday of Colorado, saw his streak of 13 consecutive scoreless innings end quickly on Berkman's two-run double in the first. Suppan didn't allow any more scoring despite repeatedly being in trouble as the Astros stranded 10 runners in his seven innings -- 11 overall.

    Mike Lincoln followed Suppan with a scoreless eighth despite allowing Orlando Merced's leadoff double. Mike Williams, appearing for a fourth consecutive day, gave up Geoff Blum's solo homer in the ninth before finishing for his 24th save in 28 opportunities.

    Given the 2-0 lead, Saarloos didn't need long to lose it in his first start since May 11, with Brian Giles tying it with a two-run double and Aramis Ramirez following with a go-ahead single. Lofton and Jason Kendall started the first-inning rally with singles.

    Saarloos, who had made 17 straight relief appearances following two early May starts, settled down to retire 12 of the next 13 hitters. But, with two outs in the fourth, Reboulet and Suppan -- the Pirates' No. 8 and 9 batters -- doubled to make it 4-2.

    Suppan is batting .300 with nine hits, but the double was his first extra-base hit in the majors and it prompted manager Jimy Williams to lift Saarloos. Relievers Mike Gallo, Ricky Stone and Brad Lidge combined for 4 1-3 scoreless innings. ^Notes:@ Despite the Reds' two come-from-behind wins, the Pirates have won six of nine. ... Ramirez had two hits after going 3-for-33. It appeared home plate umpire Lance Barksdale, at Williams' request, told Ramirez to remove a bulky protective device on his left elbow in the third. After Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon intervened, Ramirez was allowed to keep wearing the elbow guard. Center fielder Craig Biggio then slid on his right knee to make a catch of Ramirez's long drive to left-center ... Saarloos has allowed 15 earned runs in his three starts.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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