PITTSBURGH (AP) - The struggles the Houston Astros were facing finally reached the point where they needed a 75-minute team meeting to air things out.
The frustrations built up over a five-game losing streak and losses in 10 of their past 11? All taken out on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a big sixth inning.
One of Hunter Pence's three hits was an RBI single during the five-run sixth, Bud Norris pitched seven strong innings, and Houston avoided a sweep with an 8-2 victory Wednesday night.
``The meeting was something we needed to come together and bring the unit back together and kind of just realize where we're at,' Norris said. ``It was a good meeting, and we were excited about then going out there and doing the little things well. That's what it's all about - and that's exactly what we got today.'
Houston took the field less than 90 minutes after the meeting that longtime observers of the club said lasted longer than any they had seen during a season. Heading into the day, the Astros were 6-24 since June 3. They have the majors' worst record (30-58).
After Charlie Morton limited Houston to three hits over the first five innings, seven of the eight batters who faced him in the sixth reached.
Angel Sanchez, Carlos Lee, Jeff Keppinger and Clint Barmes also had RBI hits in the inning.
The five runs Houston scored in the sixth matched what it had in the previous three games combined.
``You get a big inning like that, you have a way bigger chance of winning these games,' Keppinger said. ``We've been running into problems getting big hits, and we got a few big hits all in that same inning.'
The Astros added three runs in the ninth.
Lee, Keppinger and Barmes each had two hits, with Pence extending his hitting streak to 11 games. He and Michael Bourn both scored twice, and Pence and Keppinger both had two RBIs.
Norris (5-6) allowed two runs, seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts to win for the first time in five starts.
Although he had only one perfect inning, Pittsburgh did not have an extra-base hit against Norris. He had lost his two previous starts against the Pirates, although the Astros scored a total of one run for him in those games.
``Bud did a great job,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``He gave up a run in the first but kept guys off the bases and kept an inning from building.
``He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to build it up.'
The Pirates brought the tying run to the plate with two men on and one out in the seventh, but Norris got pinch-hitter Xavier Paul to pop out. Alex Presley followed with a liner to deep center that was run down by Bourn.
Wilton Lopez struck out the side in the eighth, and David Carpenter struck out two in a perfect ninth.
A day after climbing four games over .500 this late in a season for the first time in 19 years, the Pirates (45-42) fell back into third place in the NL Central by losing for the first time in four games.
``They outplayed us tonight - across the board,' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Morton (7-5) was making his second start since having his turn in the rotation skipped due to arm fatigue. The Astros did not get to him until the sixth, when they had six hits and benefited from two errors.
``It kind of got out of hand,' Morton said of the sixth. ``It kind of crept up on me, and all of a sudden it just kind of fell apart.'
Andrew McCutchen had both RBIs, and Michael McKenry went 2 for 3 for the surprising Pirates, who are coming off a 105-loss season but had won four of their previous five and 10 of 14.
McCutchen's single scored Presley to make it 1-0 in the first. His groundout in the sixth drove in Chase d'Arnaud.
Pittsburgh hasn't lost consecutive games since losing four straight June 17-20.
``That's because we wash it off,' McCutchen said. ``We lose a game, we wash it off. We win a game, we wash it off. We're still doing some good things.'
Notes: Houston avoided its first six-game losing streak since early 2010. ... Pittsburgh had won the previous seven against the Astros. ... The 265-pound Lee's RBI triple was his career-high fourth of the season. ... The Pirates are 6-1-1 in their past eight home series. ... McCutchen has reached safely in 19 consecutive home games. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker had a string of three straight multi-hit games snapped but still has a 13-game hitting streak against the Astros. ... After the game, the Astros activated C Humberto Quintero from the DL and optioned C J.R. Towles to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Associated Press News Service
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