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Taveras, Astros extend streaks against Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Willy Taveras has been doing his part, and on Saturday the pitchers stepped up to help.

Andy Pettitte made another effective start against Pittsburgh and the
Astros won consecutive games for the first time in more than two
weeks, beating the Pirates 7-4 Saturday night.

Taveras extended his Astros-record hitting streak to 29
games when he doubled on Zach Duke's third pitch of the game.
Taveras has gotten a hit in his first at-bat in 13 of the 29 games.

Taveras' streak is four games longer than that of Jeff Kent, whose 25-game streak in 2004 previously was the longest in Astros history. Taveras has the second longest streak in the majors this season to Chase Utley's 35-game streak for the Phillies from June 23-August 3.

Lance Berkman, who homered in Houston's 5-1 victory Friday
night, hit a two-run double in the seventh inning. Before that,
Pittsburgh's sloppy defensive play -- on a night the Pirates also
made some excellent plays in the field -- helped the Astros take a
4-3 lead.

"That was the big at-bat of the game," Pirates manager Jim
Tracy said of Berkman's hit.

Another good sign for the Astros: Brad Lidge, previously one of the
NL dominant relievers, seems to be back on his game after
temporarily being moved out of the closer's role. Since adding
two-seam fastball that moves down in the strike zone to his
high-90s, four-seam fastball, he has made four consecutive
scoreless outings.

Lidge struck out the side in the ninth on 13 pitches and has
struck out seven of the nine Pirates he has faced in the series. He
got his 27th save in 32 opportunities but his first since Aug. 11.

"To be honest, I think the two-seamer has made a difference,"
Lidge said. "I've given up eight home runs this year, all on
fastballs over the plate. This gives me more room for error and,
the last four games, it's been real effective. I need to continue
to throw it and to do it with confidence."

The Astros hadn't won successive games since winning four in a
row from Aug. 8-11, a span that included a three-game sweep of the
Pirates in Houston. The Astros are 9-3 against Pittsburgh this
season but still are six games under .500.

"From here on out, we need to win every series," Lidge said.
"If not, we need to sweep some teams."

Pettitte (12-13) improved to 6-1 against the Pirates in seven
career starts. He fell behind 3-2 in the second on Jose Castillo's
two-run single and Duke's wrong-way RBI single to left after the
pitcher twice failed to put down a sacrifice bunt.

"We were able to score some runs and it was nice to be able to
hold onto it," Pettitte said.

Duke's wildness helped put Houston back into the lead in the
fourth. Duke (8-12), ending a six-game winning streak at home, got
the first two batters of the inning before Adam Everett doubled.
After Brad Ausmus was intentionally walked so Duke could pitch to
Pettitte, the pitcher singled into right field and Ausmus then
scored on Duke's wild pitch.

Everett and Craig Biggio had singled and scored in the second
when first baseman Joe Randa threw wildly on Taveras' routine
grounder that looked to be the third out of the inning. Randa made
only his ninth career start at first.

"It's a different ballgame if I don't make that error," Randa
said. "I take responsibility for this game. He's like Ichiro
[Suzuki] as a runner, and he made me hurry up the throw."

The Astros chased Duke in a three-run seventh started when
Pettitte singled for the second time, Taveras reached on a force
play and Chris Burke singled. Berkman, in a 5-for-45 slump, doubled
and Morgan Ensberg singled to make it 7-3.

Pettitte had retired 14 in a row until being lifted on a humid,
87-degree night when Ronny Paulino and Jose Bautista singled in the
seventh. Reliever Dave Borkowski gave up Castillo's single and
pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit's sacrifice fly before getting out of the
inning.

Pettitte allowed four runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
He hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his previous
six starts against Pittsburgh. Borkowski stayed in to pitch a
scoreless eighth.

Game Notes
Duke hadn't lost in PNC Park since a 4-3 defeat to Florida
on May 13. He is 7-3 at home this season. ... The Astros have won
12 of their last 15 against Pittsburgh. ... NL batting leader
Freddy Sanchez of Pittsburgh went 0-for-4 to cut his average to
.345. He struck out in the eighth on a pitch he argued hit his
right elbow, and the umpires did not change the call after
conferring.