Series: Game 2 of 2

Series tied 1-1 (as of 7/22)

Game 1: Monday, July 21
Game 2: Tuesday, July 22

Astros 2

(55-45, 23-27 away)

Pirates 0

(44-53, 22-29 home)

    7:05 PM ET, July 22, 2003

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 011000000 2 8 0
    PIT 000000000 0 3 1

    W: J. Robertson (10-3)

    L: S. Torres (5-3)

    S: B. Wagner (29)

    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 night.

    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 eighth.

    "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 done."

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press