<
>

Vogelsong, Pirates snap out of slumps

HOUSTON (AP) -- After losing seven consecutive decisions, Ryan Vogelsong knew it was time to change his approach to pitching.

It worked.

Vogelsong allowed two hits over six innings for his first win
since his first start of the season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates
beat the Houston Astros 7-2 Wednesday night.

"I know that I have to ability to pitch at this level, so I
looked at myself in the mirror and said it is time to do what you
can do or you're going back to the minors, and I finally did it,"
Vogelsong said.

Jason Kendall hit his first career grand slam off the
left-field pole as Pittsburgh snapped a five-game losing streak and
won for just the second time in 17 games at Houston. They have only
won four of their last 23 and two of 13 on the road.

"This doesn't wash away what has been happening, but it is nice
to get a win," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said.
"Hopefully we can get on a roll and start playing like we did in
the first 45 games and not the last 20."

Vogelsong (2-7) won for the first time since April 8 against
Philadelphia. He gave up two runs, while walking three and striking
out three.

"It's a big lift. I needed this big time," Vogelsong said. "I
tried not to let it weigh on my mind. I tried to block out the last
two months and stay positive and do my job."

McClendon advised Vogelsong to stay with the basics in a pregame
conversation.

"This was Baseball 101. Good pitching, good bullpen and timely
hitting," McClendon said. "I talked to Ryan before the game, and I
told him to keep it simple. Just keep the ball down and be
aggressive, and it worked. They hit some balls right at people, and
he made some good pitches when he was behind in the count."

It was the first time that Vogelsong had faced Houston.

"That was our first look at him, although we had watched him on
TV," Craig Biggio said. "He has a good arm. When you throw 94, you
are going to get some people out."

Rob Mackowiak and Jose Castillo singled off Pete Munro in the
seventh. David Weathers relieved, and after getting an out, walked
pinch-hitter Randall Simon to load the bases for Kendall, who hit
his second homer of the season.

"I didn't know what to do. I don't hit many home runs,"Kendall
said. "I thought it was foul until I saw it hit the pole. I was
just looking for a slider down and in, and I got it."

Weathers thought it was foul, too.

"I didn't think it would stay fair when he hit it. I looked at
the umpire to get another ball, but then I saw him watching it and I
thought maybe I should watch it to," Weathers said. "It blew me
away."

Munro (1-1) gave up four runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He
struck out four and walked one.

Houston went up 1-0 in the first after Biggio led off with a
walk, moved to second on a sacrifice by Adam Everett and scored
when second baseman Castillo mishandled Lance Berkman's grounder
for an error, then committed a throwing error.

Pittsburgh tied it in the second when Craig Wilson tripled and
scored on a ground out by Mackowiak and went up 3-1 on a two-run
single by Daryle Ward.

Jeff Bagwell singled and Jose Vizcaino drove him in with a
triple to cut Houston's deficit to 3-2 in the fourth.

Game notes
Everett was in the Houston starting lineup Wednesday for
the first time since he strained his hamstring on June 14. ... Brad Lidge leads the major leagues in strikeouts by a reliever with 64.
... Bagwell needs one home run to tie Cal Ripken for 32nd on the
all-time home run list with 431. ... The Pirates have homered 27
times in their last 11 games. ... Vogelsong has given up 22 runs in
the first inning of his 14 starts this season. ... Andy Pettitte
pitched five scoreless innings in a rehabilitation assignment at
Double-A Round Rock on Wednesday. He gave up one hit while striking
out five and walking one. He threw 73 pitches.