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Astros hand Pirates 4th straight loss, 7-1

Associated Press Modified: September 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm •  Published: September 21, 2012

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston interim manager Tony DeFrancesco isn't in a position to worry about anybody else's fortunes while trying to improve a team with the worst record in the majors.

And after the Astros knocked off the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 on Friday night, he bluntly conveyed that point.

"I know they've been struggling and they keep talking about getting to .500 and the history of Pittsburgh," he said. "For me, I don't feel bad for anybody right now. We're going to go out and try to compete and try to win series until the end of the season here."

Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer and Justin Maxwell and Brett Wallace added solo shots to help the Astros coast to the win, 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 and increase the possibility of a 20th straight losing season, which would extend their major North American professional sports record.

Things looked good for the Pirates on Aug. 8 when they were 63-47, a season-best 16 games over .500.

"When you don't get the results you want and you don't run the bases, it doesn't look good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes the game can look heavy on you. That's when I have to make sure I am getting the effort and the attitude we need. We are, but we just aren't getting the results come game time."

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 a career-high 3 1-3 innings for the win.

"Fernando Rodriguez really stepped up today," DeFrancesco said. "He got some big outs for us, filled some innings for us. He made some pitches ... I'm real pleased with the way the bullpen handled the situation."

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.

Garrett Jones allowed the Pirates to avoid a shutout with his solo homer off Rhiner Cruz in the eighth inning.

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