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Astros pound Pirates; Taveras' hit streak at 30 games

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Willy Taveras has quite a streak going. Now
he'd like to see the defending NL champion Houston Astros get on
one, too.

Taveras ran his hitting streak to 30 games during another
excellent all-around game and Lance Berkman drove in four runs,
helping the Astros rough up the Pittsburgh Pirates 13-1 Sunday for
their third consecutive victory.

Berkman, in a 5-for-45 slump before getting six RBI in the
final two games of the four-game series, hit a three-run homer in
the fifth following a run-scoring single in the first. Taveras
singled to start the game and extend the longest hitting streak in
team history.

After the Pirates won the series opener Thursday, Berkman
effectively beat them in three consecutive games to help get the
Astros out of a slide in which they lost 10 of 13. Berkman homered
to support Roger Clemens' 5-1 victory Friday, then had a two-run
double to key a 7-4 victory Saturday.

Berkman also could have easily had another hit, but shortstop
Freddy Sanchez was given an error for not handling a sharply hit
grounder up the middle that scored Mike Lamb during a three-run
third.

"Usually when he drives in a bunch of runs, we score a bunch of
runs," manager Phil Garner said.

Taveras began each of the final three games of the series with
hits during the second longest hitting streak in the NL this season
to Chase Utley's 35-game run for the Phillies.

"It kind of blows me away a little bit, but nothing is easy,"
Taveras said. "The way the team is winning some ballgames, I'm
real happy about that."

Taveras reached base on hits or walks 10 times in the series and
stole four bases. He is 45-of-129 (.349) during his hitting streak,
getting hits in his first at-bat 14 times.

"The pressure's off then, so I hope I can get it every time in
the first at-bat," he said. "I'm not thinking that much about it,
it's hard to give a hit in every game that you play. But now I'm
into it, I want to get a hit."

The Pirates assured themselves of a 14th consecutive non-winning
season with their 81st loss, looking exactly like the last-place
team they are with one of their worst-played games of the year.
They had two errors, repeatedly made poor pitches in key situations
and let Taveras and Berkman generate runs nearly every time they
batted.

"Obviously, it wasn't a great day," manager Jim Tracy said.
"We didn't pitch well early in the game ... and then the game got
out of hand and completely got away. But this is an aberration,
with what we've been up to in the second half of the season."

Not compared to the Pirates' history since the early 1990s, it
isn't. With one more loss, they will be two losing seasons away
from tying the Phillies' major-league record of 16 in a row from
1933-48.

If only the Astros could play the Pirates more often. They are
10-3 against them and have managed their only two modest winning
streaks this month -- one of four games, the other of three -- mostly
against the Pirates. That four-game run Aug. 8-11 included a
three-game sweep of Pittsburgh in Houston.

"We have to carry this home and keep it going," Garner said as
the Astros finished up a 6-5 road trip. "We've got a little
something going for us right now."

The Pirates decided to intentionally walk Berkman during a
four-run seventh but the damage was long since done, and Aubrey
Huff followed with an RBI single and Adam Everett had a two-run
double against reliever Britt Reames. Pirates starter Shawn Chacon
(1-2) was long gone by then after giving up seven runs, five
earned, in 4 1-3 innings.

Jason Hirsh (2-2), a rookie right-hander making his fourth
career start, bounced back from a 14-0 loss Tuesday to Cincinnati
to pitch seven innings. He gave up one run and five hits in his
second appearance in PNC Park in six weeks -- he also started the
All-Star Futures Game on July 9.

Game notes
Lamb had two hits, scored three runs and drove in another.
Chris Burke also scored three times. ... The Pirates fell below
.500 since the All-Star break at 20-21. They have losses of 14-1
and 13-1 to Houston this month. ... Pirates SS Jack Wilson missed a
third consecutive start because of a viral infection. ... The game
was long since decided, but CF Taveras made an exceptional diving,
face-in-the-turf catch of Chris Duffy's fly ball into the
left-center gap in the seventh. ... The start was delayed 62
minutes by light rain.