Robertson helps Astros avoid being swept by Pirates


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jeriome Robertson still packs his equipment in
a Houston Astros farm system bag. There's certainly nothing minor
league about his pitching.

Robertson pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning to win
his ninth straight decision and Houston avoided being swept in
Pittsburgh for the second time this month, winning 2-0 Tuesday

Morgan Ensberg hit his 19th homer and Robertson added an RBI
single as the teams split the two-game series. Houston, the NL
Central leader, had lost four straight in Pittsburgh but has won
six of seven and 11 of 13 overall.

"To me, that was the best game he's pitched," manager Jimy
Williams said of his rookie left-hander. "He changed speeds well,
he threw his breaking ball. He just likes to pitch and he believes
in himself. Once you have some success, it makes you feel good
about yourself."

Robertson (10-3) remained unbeaten since April 25, a span of 15
appearances, while lasting at least seven innings for the third
time in four starts. He retired 16 of 17 batters before being
lifted after pinch-hitter Adam Hyzdu singled with one out in the

"I felt good, and I definitely felt I could have kept going,"
Robertson said. "I didn't want to come out. But we've been going
to the bullpen all year and any one of those guys down there can do
the job. With our bullpen, you're confident they can get the job

As usual, the Astros' bullpen did. Brad Lidge came on to get
Kenny Lofton to line into a double play on the only pitch he threw,
and Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 32 chances.
Wagner has converted his last seven save opportunities and has
finished each of Houston's last five victories.

Robertson, making his first career start against Pittsburgh,
also helped stop another streak: Jason Kendall's 23-game hitting
streak, which ended when he went 0-for-4. The streak was the
longest currently in the majors this season and was within four of
matching Jimmy Williams' 104-year team record.

The Pirates wound up helping two of the NL Central contenders
Tuesday. After the game, they traded starting center fielder Lofton
and power-hitting third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs for
shortstop Jose Hernandez and two prospects.

Lofton went 1-for-4 in his last game with Pittsburgh, and
Ramirez, on pace for his second 100-RBI season in three years, went
0-for-4. He was leading the Pirates with 67 RBI.

"I'm not surprised after what's happened," Ramirez said of the
Pirates' third trade in three days. "A lot more guys are going to
leave. I'm just glad I'm going to a good team."

The only other Pirates hits were singles by Lofton in the third
and Jeff Reboulet in the fifth.

Pirates starter Salomon Torres (5-3) held the Astros to two runs
and six hits over six innings in a spot start, but it wasn't enough
to match Robertson. The rookie has allowed only eight earned runs
in 38 innings over his last six starts, all victories.

Torres, starting to allow right-hander Kris Benson to rest his
sore right shoulder, got into trouble when Lance Berkman and
Richard Hidalgo singled to start the second. Torres got the next
two batters on fly balls, but Robertson -- batting .156 -- gave
himself a 1-0 lead with a single to right field for his second RBI
of the season and his career.

"That was very hitter-ish right there," Ensberg said. "Torres
is throwing his sinker 93 mph and he stayed back with the pitch and
took the ball the other way, just like we're trying to do."

Ensberg, moved up from seventh to second in the batting order
Tuesday by Jimy Williams, led off the third with his 19th homer.

Ensberg batted seventh in the Pirates' 5-3 victory Monday but
changed places in the order Tuesday with Geoff Blum. Ensberg came
into the game with only two hits in his previous 12 at-bats, while
Blum -- who twice hit into double plays Tuesday -- has only three
hits in 18 at-bats.

The shutout was the Astros' third of the season.

Game notes
The Astros are 13-1 in Robertson's last 14 starts. His
winning streak is the longest by an Astros rookie pitcher. He gave
up two runs and four hits in 1 2-3 innings during a relief
appearance against Pittsburgh on May 12, the last time he didn't
start a game. ... Houston has won 13 of 18. ... Houston won the
season series 10-6 despite losing five of its previous seven to
Pittsburgh. ... Torres is 0-4 in his career against Houston.