Astros hand Pirates 4th straight loss, 7-1

Astros hand Pirates 4th straight loss, 7-1

Credit: Getty Images

Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros flips the ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie #4 of the Houston Astros to force out Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park on September 21, 2012 in Houston, Texas.

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Associated Press

Posted on September 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM

HOUSTON -- Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer and Justin Maxwell and Brett Wallace added solo shots to help the Houston Astros coast to a 7-1 win over Pittsburgh on Friday night, further dampening the Pirates already dim postseason hopes.

The Pirates couldn’t find much offense as they lost their fourth straight game to fall to six games back for the second NL wild card spot. They’ve lost 16 of their last 20 games in this late-season swoon to fall to 74-76.

Houston starter Edgar Gonzalez lasted just 1 2-3 innings before leaving with a strained right hamstring. That forced the Astros to use six different relievers to cobble together the rest of the game. The bullpen combined to fan 11 and allow six hits. Fernando Rodriguez (2-10) struck out four in 3 1-3 innings for the win.

Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke (0-2) yielded three hits and three runs with a career-high eight strikeouts in five innings. He is 0-5 in eight career major league starts.

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