Astros 5, Pirates 1

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 03, 2012
Brett Wallace had three hits, including a three-run homer, to lift the Houston Astros past the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 on Monday. Edgar Gonzalez (1-0) picked up his first victory as a starter in more than four years, giving up a run on five hits in 5 1-3 innings as the Astros won for just the third time since interim manager Tony DeFrancesco took over two weeks ago. Gonzalez struck out five and walked just one. Jeff Locke (0-1) ran into trouble early and never recovered as the Pirates dropped their fourth straight. Locke surrendered five runs in five innings to remain winless in five big league starts. Garrett Jones had three hits for the Pirates, who failed to come through at the start of an important six-game homestand that could determine whether they stay in the National League wild card race. The Astros, long relegated to the role of spoiler, jumped on Locke quickly. The 24-year-old left-hander was brought up to help out a rotation that's been battered over the last few weeks. The team released veteran left-hander Erik Bedard last week and Jeff Karstens is out indefinitely with a hip injury. Locke pitched well at Triple-A Indianapolis this season, going 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA but found the going a little more difficult in his first start in the majors this season, even against a team with the worst record in the big leagues. Houston needed just four pitches to load the bases in the first, though Locke managed to escape giving up just one run. The Astros pushed it to 2-0 in the third on an RBI groundout by Justin Maxwell before Locke came unraveled in the fifth. Jose Altuve singled with one out and Greene followed with a chopper to Pittsburgh shortstop Clint Barmes, who double-clutched on his throw to first to give Green just enough time to beat it out for a hit. Wallace sent Locke's next offering into the first row of seats in right-center for his seventh homer of the season. All seven have come on the road and this one gave the well-traveled Gonzalez all the breathing room he would need. The 29-year-old has bounced between four organizations since making his debut with Arizona in 2003. He appeared in one game for the Colorado Rockies in 2011 and spent time in the Mexican League - among other places - before Houston signed him on Aug. 23. Gonzalez hardly looked nervous. The right-hander threw his first seven pitches for strikes and was met with little resistance by the Pirates to pick up his first victory as a starter since April 24, 2008, when he was pitching for Arizona. Pittsburgh is enjoying its best season in two decades, but the Pirates' momentum took a hit over the weekend while getting swept in Milwaukee. Monday marked the beginning of a weeklong homestand against the teams with the two worst records in baseball, but Pittsburgh couldn't take advantage. NOTES: Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker (back) began baseball activities and could return to the team by Friday. Walker hasn't played since Aug. 26 ... Karstens has been cleared to do ''flat ground'' work but there remains no timetable for his return. Karstens left Friday's loss in Milwaukee in the first inning with what's been diagnosed as a hip flexor strain ... The series continues on Tuesday when Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez (9-13, 3.86 ERA) faces Houston's Jordan Lyles (3-10, 5.46) ... The Astros are 3-10 under DeFrancesco.
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