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Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2003 1:17 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Pittsburgh Pirates
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
9 12 1
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
10 9 2
W Bland (1-0)
L Sauerbeck (0-3)
S Wagner (7)
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HOUSTON 10, PITTSBURGH 9
K Wells: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Jeff Bagwell made sure Nate Bland will remember his first career victory for a long, long time.

Bagwell capped an improbable eighth-inning rally with an RBI single as the Houston Astros extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a wild 10-9 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates .

Houston trailed, 9-4, entering the bottom of the eighth before Jeff Kent singled and Lance Berkman and Richard Hidalgo walked against Brian Boehringer . Scott Sauerbeck (0-3) entered the contest but promptly walked Gregg Zaun and Brian Hunter , both on four pitches, to make it 9-6.

"His location seemed to be the problem," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He couldn't throw strikes. We haven't got to the problem yet, but the fact was that he didn't throw strikes."

Sauerbeck then fell behind 2-0 on Orlando Merced before getting a called strike, but Merced rapped his next pitch down the first base line for a single to plate Hidalgo and Zaun and pull Houston within 9-8.

"I feel awful," Sauerbeck said. "We scored all of those runs and I let everybody down. All I had to do was get them out and we win the game. I just didn't do my job."

Pirates closer Mike Williams replaced Sauerbeck and got Craig Biggio to line out before Geoff Blum drove in Hunter with a sacrifice fly to center that tied the game. Bagwell then capped the rally with a single to right field that brought in Merced. It was Williams' second blown save of the season.

"I thought (Williams) would throw me a breaking ball, and he threw me a slider," Bagwell said. "To be successful, I've got to go to right field with it. A lot of times I pull it to the shortstop when I try to go to right, but this time I got it through."

Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth to record his seventh save.

"It's a good character builder," Wagner said. "Everybody that played contributed tonight. That's how you win championships."

Bland (1-0), who made his major league debut on Monday, yielded two hits in two scoreless innings for his first win.

"It's great," Bland said. "The whole experience since I was called up (on May 2) has been like a dream. I just wanted to put zeros on the board. I didn't expect to pitch two innings. It's definitely a confidence-builder."

It was the third time this season that the Astros have come back to win from a deficit of five runs.

Pittsburgh jumped to a 3-0 lead against Astros starter Kirk Saarloos in the top of the first on a two-run double by Randall Simon and a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez .

Astros manager Jimy Williams was ejected in the opening frame by home plate umpire Ted Barrett for arguing balls and strikes. He came out to voice his frustrations after Bagwell was called out on strikes.

"I've never seen Jeff argue much about balls and strikes," Williams said. "The umpire was right to eject me. We needed (Bagwell) in the lineup. Everyone in this clubhouse, both the players and the coaches, look up to him."

"That's what he's supposed to do - get me away from the umpire," Bagwell said. "Jimy protects his players. He's done a tremendous job for us."

The Pirates made it 5-0 one frame later on a two-run single by Reggie Sanders . Saarloos, who was making his season debut, exited after two innings, tying the shortest outing of his career.

Houston got one run back on Berkman's fourth homer of the season in the bottom of the second against Pittsburgh starter Kip Wells . The Astros pulled within 5-4 on a three-run homer by pinch hitter Morgan Ensberg in the fourth.

Pittsburgh countered with a two-run double by Ramirez in the fifth and back-to-back homers by Kenny Lofton and Sanders in the sixth to make it 9-4. All four runs came against Pete Munro .

"It talks about the type of guys in that clubhouse," Williams said of the Astros' win. "It's a nine-inning game, and you play the game to its completion. You don't throw away any at-bats. You compete all the time and leave it on the field. It certainly makes our club feel good to come back like that."


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