Bay homer helps Bucs hand Astros fourth straight loss

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- After watching this catcher, and the rest of
the Pittsburgh Pirates' unusually productive lineup, it was Houston
Astros manager Phil Garner who probably felt like crying.

Jason Bay homered for the fourth consecutive game and drove in
four runs, and the Pirates had a season-high 16 hits in beating
Houston 12-5 Friday night, the Astros' fourth consecutive loss.

Pirates rookie Ronny Paulino, enjoying a much better game than
the opposing catcher did against the Astros the day before, had his
first four-hit game in the majors. Craig Wilson and Jose Castillo
also homered during a three-homer fourth inning against Taylor
Buchholz (3-4), who shut out the Pirates for 8 2-3 innings the last
time he opposed them.

"We made mistakes tonight, and they absolutely pounded them,"
Garner said of his defending NL champions, losers of eight of 11
overall and 10 of 12 on the road. "That's been a problem the last
few series, we haven't been able to get the ball where we wanted
to. ... It's a mystery because we're better than that, but we're in
a rotten rut right now."

The Astros lost 8-5 Thursday in Washington, despite stealing
seven bases -- forcing Nationals manager Frank Robinson to pull
backup catcher Matthew LeCroy in the middle of an inning.
Afterward, Robinson got teary-eyed explaining why he had to yank
his catcher.

On Friday night, the Astros never could get the opposing catcher

Paulino wasn't on the Pirates' season-opening roster and wasn't
expected to make an impact this season, but has won the everyday
job by playing well defensively and batting .310. He doubled in the
Pirates' first run in the second, then had three consecutive

"I felt good at the plate," Paulino said. "My primary job is
to work with the pitcher, but I know I can hit."

So can Bay, who got off to a relatively slow start -- he was
hitting .250 on May 3 -- but has 25 RBI in 13 games and has jumped
his average to .304.

Bay had a run-scoring single in the third as the Pirates began
to rally from a 4-1 deficit, then followed with a three-run drive
in the seven-run fourth that put the Pirates up 8-4. Bay has eight
homers in 32 at-bats in eight games, including two two-homer games,
and is the first Pirate to homer in four consecutive game since
Barry Bonds from Aug. 18-21, 1987.

"This is the first time this has happened to me at any level,"
Bay said. "It's getting a little surreal. I'm starting to pinch
myself. You always want to manage the cold streaks and ride the hot
streaks, and hopefully this one will last a while."

The Pirates had lost six of seven and were coming off yet
another terrible road trip -- they are 4-22 away from PNC Park -- but
they didn't look like a team off to its worst start (15-33) in 52
years. Or one that is 4-14 in one-run games.

Buchholz, who grew up near Philadelphia and had plenty of family
members in the stands, was coming off a career-first 5-0 shutout of
the Texas Rangers on Sunday but quickly gave away a three-run lead
supplied by Morgan Ensberg's 17th homer.

Jeromy Burnitz doubled ahead of Castillo's third homer, tying it
at 4, and Freddy Sanchez had a run-scoring grounder before Bay hit
his 14th homer. Wilson followed Bay's drive with his ninth homer,
bringing on reliever Mike Gallo.

Buchholz, who got his first career victory against Pittsburgh on
April 22, saw his ERA climb from 4.35 to 5.57. He gave up 11 hits
and nine runs in 3 2-3 innings.

"I got behind a bunch of guys and left same fat pitches right
over the middle and they hit them pretty good," Buchholz said.
"It's part of being a rookie, you take your ups and downs."

All those runs allowed Pirates starter Ian Snell (4-3) to last 5
2-3 innings, despite giving up 10 hits and five runs. He has won
four of his last five decisions despite lasting fewer than six
innings four times.

Game notes
The Astros had won their last six against Pittsburgh. ...
They are 7-15 away from Houston. ... Pirates 1B Sean Casey went
0-for-3 during the first game of a rehabilitation assignment at
Double-A Altoona. He hadn't played since breaking two bones in his
back April 14. ... The Pirates had 15 hits in a game twice this